Last week we discussed the feeling of witnessing your first live NBA game. Today, we’ll talk about checking out your first NHL game. While the two have similarities, there are many differences you should be aware of. Even more so than with the NBA, you really start to understand the nuances behind the sport of hockey when you witness it live. The pace of play, the individual skill of the players, and the overall atmosphere simply aren’t things you can truly understand until you watch the game live. If you’ve never been to a live NHL game, do yourself a favor and grab a couple of tickets. If you’re planning on going for the first time this season, let me give you a few tips on what to expect.

How Early Should I Arrive to a Hockey Game?

There’s no doubt about it: live, professional sporting events are popular. Especially if you’re heading to an arena on a Friday or Saturday night, make sure you get there early to avoid the traffic and lines. As a die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fan who’s seen many games at the very popular United Center, I’d recommend getting to your local arena at least an hour before the first puck drops. You won’t be sorry.

Once you’re in with time to spare, you can check out the pre-game skate, which is always a fun. If you’re a hockey fan, you’ll get to see the warmups that you rarely see on television. Frankly, it’s fascinating to watch your favorite hockey players go through their pre-game routines.

Where Do I Park?

Depending on the stadium you’re heading to, you’ll have multiple parking options. The closer, the better especially if you’re running a bit late to the game. However, it’s best to check your team’s website to see the best options for parking, as locals will often charge outrageous prices for off-site lots.

Ideally, you’ll have a reliable public transportation option that’s cheaper and less of a hassle than driving to the arena. If you can, take a rail line or ride-sharing service. That way, you and your friends can enjoy everything the NHL experience offers without worrying about remembering where you parked or who’s going to drive home.

NHL Game Concessions?

If you’ve been to any live event at a stadium or arena, you know how concessions are. They’re certainly not cheap but, hey, this is a special occasion so have a good time. For a truly authentic experience, check out what the stadium’s signature food or drink item is and then get that. While expensive, it’s worth it as it’s all part of your first NHL game experience.

How Long is a Professional Hockey Game?

NHL games consist of three, 20-minute periods. The first two periods have 20-minute intermissions in between. Also, each team gets two (rarely taken) timeouts during the course of an entire game. If a game ends in regulation – aka doesn’t head to the 20-minute overtime period – it usually lasts around two hours and 15 minutes. It’s much like an NBA game in that regard. However, unlike NBA games, NHL games have much lower scoring which means that they have a higher chance to head to overtime, so prepare accordingly.

But, I mean, who wouldn’t want to witness the excitement of an overtime period? It’s a wonderful thing.

Looking to attend your first NHL game or your 100th? Click here to browse NHL tickets on SeatGeek. Let’s go!