What time do NHL warmups start?

One of the best things to do when going to an NHL is to get to the game early so you can watch the warmup. Even if you do not have seats in the lower bowl NHL teams will allow you to go down right to the glass to watch the players skate around and warm up before the game.  

I’ll go over some of the great things about the warm up below, but first we have to determine what time we need to get to the arena to watch it.  

So what time does the NHL warmups start? The NHL warmup starts approximately 30 minutes before the start of the game. So if the game starts at 7:00 then the warmup will start at 6:29. The warm up will last 16 minutes, and both teams will be on the ice at their respective ends at the same time. 

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The most common time for an NHL game to start is 7:00 pm local time. Some teams start at 7:30 pm – like the San Jose Sharks – and on the weekend there are always a few matinee games. The matinee games will most often start at 1:00 pm, but, of course there are many exceptions.

So I took the three most common starting times and laid out what a typical evening at a game would look like. Sometimes there are pregame ceremonies that will change this flow, such as a jersey retirement, but most often this is how the night will be laid out. 

Game Time7:00 pm7:30 pm1:00 pm
Doors Open6:006:3012:00
Warm Up Starts6:296:5912:29
Warm Up Ends6:457:1512:45
Players Come Back Out7:007:301:00
Puck Drop7:087:381:08

So the warmup will start 31 minutes before the game time on your ticket. Whereas the actual game start time (the time the first puck drops) is usually about 8 minutes after the time on your ticket.

How does the warmup work?

Both teams will come out to take the warm up at the same time, and will strictly stay to their own side of the rink. No player is allowed to go over to the other side of the rink with the center red line being used to divide sides.

When the players come out for the warm up they will come out and do several laps around their side of the ice. After getting their legs going they will then incorporate pucks. 

Players will do their own individual stickhandling and shooting drills. This means that you will see some players warming up their hands by doing a few stickhandling drills in the neutral zone or come in and shoot at the open net. 

After a few minutes of this then the teams will take warm up shots on the goalies, who you will see doing a bunch of stretches before coming into the net. 

Players will come in and take individual shots on the goalie, and then move into doing team drills with forward units taking rushes on defensemen before taking a shot onto the goalie. 

The warm up is a highly structured sequence of events. Each player knows what they will be doing at what time. Players live by routine and there is a definite routine that they follow. You could set your watch to it.

This warm up routine last for about 16 minutes.

After the warm up is done the players will return to the dressing room for 15 minutes before coming back up for the national anthems and the first puck drop. 

Why go to the warmup?

Now, when I go to a hockey game I do not go to the warmup for every game. But, if I take someone who is new to hockey I will go for sure or sometimes I just want to get a closer look at a certain player. 

I get to sit in the lower bowl from time-to-time, but most of those seats are owned by corporations or people with considerable means. If you are like me, then you will be sitting with the commoners in the upper tiers of the stadium. 

So if I bring someone new to hockey, I want them to be able to see the speed of the game and how hard the players shoot the puck. You do not necessarily get this experience when you are sitting up high in the stadium during the game. However, you can get it when you go and watch the warmup.

NHL teams will allow you to go down to the lower bowl and watch the warmup even if you do not have a ticket in that area. And, when you are down there you will definitely get a sense of how fast they skate and how hard they shoot. 

It is amazing to stand behind the goalie, and see how hard the puck is shot at him. How does he have time to react at all to the shot?

It is amazing to hear the sound of a missed shot on the glass behind the net. It is so loud and scary, and you wonder how the plexi-glass behind the net doesn’t shatter. (Don’t worry it will not).

Signs for the warmup

Another great thing about the warmup is the creative signs that fans bring to the game and place on the glass for the players to read.

Here are a few pictures of some creative signs at the games:

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And here is one of my kids before a Flames game. Do you notice Johnny Gaudreau in the background?

My daughter is wearing my old Joe Nieuwendyk sweater 🙂

Do teams interact during the warmup? 

Players definitely interact during the game. It is definitely against the rules to go onto the other teams side during the warm up, and if you do suspensions will be handed out.

However, this doesn’t stop players from skating to the red line and chirping (talking trash) to the other team. There are many unwritten rules in hockey, and many of them revolve around fighting.

For instance, it would not be uncommon for a player to make sure his opponent knows that he needs to fight because of a dirty hit or play that he caused during a previous game.

In addition, some players are simply trying to get under the opponents skin and through them off their game. So, why wait until the game has started? They will start trying to play mind games with the other team before they start. A common practice is waiting until the other team is skating off after the warm up and then have someone shoot into their net. This drives some players crazy.


So, if you have a chance to catch an NHL game make sure that you take the time to go to the warm up. You will not be disappointed!!!

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Welcome to Hockey Answered: a resource for anyone curious to learn & understand more about the great game of hockey.

I am a lifelong fan who grew up in a major market (Calgary), and I have played, coached, and watched a lot of hockey!

As my daughter began watching NHL games with me, I realized how many questions come up about the sport. Hockey Answered is full of, well, answers! If you are a new fan or lifelong enthusiast, I hope that you can enjoy hockey even more by learning something new around here.

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