Appropriate Hockey Shift Length

Generally speaking the appropriate minor hockey shift length is about 40 seconds.  If a player is on the ice for 40 seconds and competes at 100% of his physical capacity he should be exhausted at the end of the 40 seconds or even sooner.  A hockey shift combines aerobic with anaerobic (short bursts) activity – the longer the shift the less likely the player is competing at maximum capacity during those most important short bursts.

If you’re a parent or coach there are a few considerations to factor for shift length.  Never let a shift go too long, especially early in a game.  Shifts longer than 40 seconds early in the game can kill your team’s energy and momentum.  Players need sufficient recovery time early in a game to ensure they have the stamina to compete at 100% of their capacity for the full game.

When do you want shorter shifts (40 seconds or less)?
  • On a penalty kill – even if players aren’t tired they need to get off to avoid being stuck in their zone
  • Early in a game – get everyone on the ice and into the game sooner than later
  • More frequently when a team is in tournament play and has multiple games in a day
When are longer shifts most beneficial (around 1 minute)?
  • While it is not often, there are a few occasions where a 1 minute shift has benefits
  • When your team has momentum and is pressing hard at the end of a game to score a goal – usually when your team has consecutive scoring chances
  • When your power play has scoring momentum – usually when you have puck control and continuous scoring opportunities in the offensive zone
When to cut a shift even shorter?
  • If a team or group of players (e.g. forward line, d-pairing) is performing poorly - staying on the ice longer discourages improved performance
  • If the other team scores a goal that could have been prevented with more effort

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