How Do Shifts Work In Hockey

Shifts in hockey refer to the time a player spends on the ice before being replaced by another player from their team. Here are 5 facts about how shifts work in hockey:
1. Shifts typically last between 40 to 60 seconds: Players are constantly moving and expending energy during their shifts, so it is essential to keep them short to prevent fatigue and maintain a high level of play.

2. Coaches determine the length of shifts: It is up to the coach to decide how long each player’s shift will be. They take into account factors such as player performance, game situation, and individual stamina when making these decisions.

3. Shift changes occur during stoppages in play: Players usually switch out during a stoppage in play, such as when a team scores a goal, an icing call is made, or when the puck goes out of play. This ensures a smooth transition and minimizes disruptions in gameplay.

4. The bench serves as a waiting area for players: When players are not on the ice, they sit on the team bench until it is their turn to go out for their shift. This allows them to rest, receive instructions from coaches, and prepare mentally for their next time on the ice.

5. Line combinations may vary throughout the game: Coaches often mix up line combinations to create different offensive or defensive strategies. This means that players may shift positions or play with different teammates during the course of the game.


1. How many shifts does a hockey player typically have in a game?
A typical hockey game consists of around 20 shifts per player, depending on various factors such as playing position, game flow, and penalties.

2. Can players request shorter or longer shifts?
Player requests regarding longer or shorter shifts are rarely accommodated in professional hockey. Coaches make shift decisions based on the overall strategy and best interests of the team.

3. Can a player go on the ice without waiting for a shift change?
No, players must wait for a shift change to enter the ice. Going on the ice without a proper change may result in a penalty for too many players on the ice.

4. Are there any consequences for staying on the ice too long?
Staying on the ice for an extended period can contribute to fatigue, leading to a decline in performance. Additionally, a player could be penalized for an “illegal substitution” if they stay on the ice without a proper shift change.

5. Are there any exceptions to shift changes during stoppages?
In critical moments, such as power plays or penalty kills, coaches may choose to keep certain players on the ice for longer shifts to maintain a numerical advantage or defensive stability.

6. Can a player have multiple shifts in a row?
While it is possible for a player to have multiple shifts in a row, it is uncommon. Coaches try to maintain an even distribution of ice time among players to prevent overuse and maximize performance.

7. Can goalies also have shifts?
Goalies have their own shift dynamics, often playing longer shifts than other skaters. They typically stay on the ice for the entire game or until a substitution is deemed necessary by the coaching staff.

Shifts in hockey are short periods of time when players are on the ice before being replaced by their teammates. Coaches determine the length of shifts based on a variety of factors, and changes typically occur during stoppages in play. Proper shift management is crucial to maintain player performance and team strategy throughout the game.