How many calories does a hockey player burn? NHL and Recreation

I play a pick up game of hockey with a group of guys every Monday night. We like to play mini-games to five and then have rematches or switch up teams, if necessary.

One night during a break a friend was looking at an app on his phone, where I thought I saw his heart rate so I asked him what he was looking at. He told me that he was wearing a band that monitored his heart rate and showed calories burned.

I was super curious about how many calories he had burned during the hour we had played. He said it was at 750 calories burned, which he said was typical and would usually get to 1500 for the two hours we played.

When I got home I started to do some research into calories burned while playing hockey. Here is what I found out!

How many calories does someone burn while playing hockey?  NHL players burn a significant amount of calories and average between 1800 to 2500 calories burned per game.  A person competing recreationally can be expected to burn between 500 to 1000 calories per hour playing hockey. 

Embed from Getty Images


Let’s look at these numbers in more detail.

What factors are taken in for calories burned? 

When looking at how many calories are burned there are a number of different factors that needed to be taken in account – age, effort level, length of time played, competition level.

Length of time played – At the rec level hockey games are normally a 60 minute timeframe. NHL games take about 2.5 to 3 hours (includes intermission time). 

Effort level – if you are not tired from your shift after one minute you are not trying hard enough. Hockey is a full-out effort sport, which means you are basically sprinting out there. How hard you try is going to have a direct correlation to the amount of calories burned

Competition level – Most hockey that is played is at the recreational level. The professional hockey you see at the NHL level is harder, more demanding, and burns more calories

Age – There are exceptions but age is a factor in how hard and long you can go at hockey. (I just cannot play as long and hard as guys who are 10 years younger) 


How many calories does an NHL player burn during a game?


Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens was curious about this question as well, as reported by Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette. So, he ended up wearing a heart monitor and calorie counter that was clipped around his chest and the back of his goalie pants.  Source

Price would put the monitor on when he arrived at the rink for the game and would then check it after the final horn blew, which was about 5.5 hours in total. 

When Price checked the numbers it came in around 2300 calories. 300 calories of this he attributed to the pregame preparation and 2000 to the actual game. 

Similarly, Jesse Demers, who was the former strength and conditioning coach with the New York Islanders, figured that the average calories burned per game for an NHL player would be between 1800 to 2500.  Source


How many calories do NHL players eat per day?

The hard thing for an NHL player is to keep their weight on during the hockey season.

They will spend all off season conditioning and strengthening their body to be ready for training camp in September when they come into peak shape. At this point until the end of the season they go into maintenance mode to keep to this peak as close as possible.

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To keep this peak they must be try and eat the amount of calories they burn. So it is typical that an NHL player will be eating between 5000 to 6000 calories per day. This is about twice as much as the typical adult male eats.

However, even with this increased intake in calories, players will still lose weight over the course of the season. They are simply expending too much energy during the hockey season to be able to maintain their weight and peak fitness level throughout the whole year. 

Chart of calories burned per hour for recreational play

A recreational player will not burn as many calories as an NHL player does, but they still burn a lot!

The following chart gives a number of various weights and the range of what you would expect to burn during an hour of playing hockey.

Again, there are a number of factors that go into it such as effort level, but if you are skating hard you will expect to have had a very good workout.

Weight (lbs)Upper Calories Burned per hourLower Calories Burned per Hour
100477382
125597477
150716573
175883668
200955764
2251074859
2501193955


Why does hockey burn so many calories? 

Hockey is best compared to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). In both hockey and HIIT programs the athlete is only working for a period of the game of training period. 

In hockey that is between 15 to 18 minutes hours of actually playing in an hour of hockey game. However, the times that the athlete is not competing are not rest times, but calories continue to be burned at a high-rate during the ‘down’ times. 

This is why hockey and HIIT are both so effective at burning calories – even when you are not performing it still burns tonnes of calories during the rest periods. 


Hockey versus other sports

How does hockey compare to other sports? Hockey is one of the higher intensity and calorie burning sports. 

For our example, we will use a 185 pound athlete competing for an hour.

Here is a chart of 10 common sports and how hockey compares to them:

SportCalories Burned per Hour
Hockey706
Skiing391
Baseball391
Football654
Tennis672
Swimming817
Soccer754
Basketball340
Volleyball239
Boxing981


Is hockey a good workout? 

So, yes, by any measure you use hockey is an excellent workout. It is one of the better workouts in terms of team sport.

Really, the only way that you are going to outdo a calorie burn in hockey is through an individual sport such as swimming or running. Some of the racquet sports like squash burn huge amounts of calories.

However, if you want to play a sport that will get you into shape hockey is a good one to go with. Not only that, hockey is so much fun to play!

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