How Big Are Hockey Players

How Big Are Hockey Players

When it comes to the sport of hockey, one cannot ignore the imposing presence of its players. Towering figures on the ice, these athletes possess a unique blend of strength, skill, and agility. In this article, we delve into the dimensions of hockey players, exploring their average height, weight, and physicality, shedding light on historical and contemporary trends within the sport.

So, how big are hockey players?

The average NHL player is 6’1 and 199 lbs. However, hockey players come in all shapes and sizes.

NHL player sizes by position (2023~2024):

PositionHeight (ft)Weight (lbs)
Goalie6’3 (74.79″)200.90
Defense6’2 (73.75″)201.67
Right W6’1 (72.98″)198.03
Left W6’1 (72.92″)198.93
Center6’1 (72.84″)195.73
Average NHL Player Size – 2023~2024

Hockey player sizes also vary across different time periods. Historical data, collected from the 1950s shows how hockey player sizes have drastically evolved, and continue to evolve even to this day.

How Big Are Hockey Players?

Hockey player sizes vary.

Almost anybody of any size can play hockey. However, at the highest level, there are statistical trends that can’t be ignored.

How Tall Are NHL Players?

The current average height in the NHL is 73.37 inches, or ~6’1″. Grouped by position, the average heights come out to be the following:

Goalies6’3 (74.79″)
Defensemen6’2 (73.75″)
Forwards6’1″ (72.90″)
Average NHL Player Height – 2023~2024
How Big Are Hockey Players? Average NHL Heights 2023 - Chart

At ~6’3″, the tallest players in the NHL are goalies, which is no surprise. Height is a definite advantage within the position as the further you can reach, and the more room you can take up, the easier it is to make a save. However, there are exceptions to this trend, such as two-time Jennings Trophy winner Jaroslav Halak who stands at 5’10”.

Goalies are followed by defensemen in height, at ~6’2″. Defense is another position where height is often an advantage as the further you can reach the easier it is to stick-check opponents. However, a lack of height or reach can easily be offset by enhanced speed and mobility. For example, two-time all-star, Stanley Cup champion, and Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar stands at 5’11”.

The shortest players in hockey are generally forwards, standing on average at ~6’1. Height is generally less important as a forward because there is no inherent advantage to being taller. At the very least, forwards are expected to be skilled and mobile, which means you can make it work at just about any height – take for example, NHL All-Star Tage Thompson who stands at 6’6″.

NHL Players Are Getting Taller

According to historical data, the NHL has been consistently getting taller since the 1960’s with 2023-2024 being the tallest season in recorded history.

How Big Are Hockey Players? Historical NHL Heights - Chart

The greatest gains in height were seen roughly between 1968~1997 with the average NHL player gaining over 2 inches in height (5’11” => 6’1″). However, since 1997 the average height has been plateauing with NHL players only gaining an average of ~0.35 inches over the last 20+ years.

How Much Do NHL Players Weigh?

The current average weight of NHL players is 199.98 lbs. Grouped by position, the average weights come out to be the following:

Defensemen201.67 lbs
Goalies200.90 lbs
Left Wing198.93 lbs
Right Wing198.03 lbs
Center195.73 lbs
Average NHL Player Weight – 2023~2024
How Big Are Hockey Players? Average NHL Weights 2023 - Chart

Defensemen are generally the heaviest players in the NHL. Although they are shorter than goalies in height, they tend to be heavier, meaning defensemen tend to have stockier physiques. However, as with any statistical average, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, Minnesota Wild captain Jared Spurgeon is 5’9″, 165 lbs.

Centers are noticeably lighter than other positions – even other forwards – meaning centers tend to possess a leaner build. This likely has to do with the skating-intensive aspects of the position. Heavier, stockier players playing center would likely not be able to skate up and down the ice and all around the defensive zone, all game, without tiring.

An example of the average size for a center is Connor McDavid – 6’1″, 194 lbs.

NHL Players Are Getting Lighter??

How Big Are Hockey Players? Historical NHL Weights - Chart

Surprisingly, the NHL has been getting lighter since the 2004 NHL lockout season. Players have been getting leaner, losing an average of ~6 pounds in the past ~20 years.

Although the discrete number (~6 lbs) seems rather small, it shows a massive trend reversal from the 1968~2004 period where the NHL players gained an average of ~23 pounds.

It’s difficult to understand why this trend reversal occurred without understanding the “Clutch & Grab Era” of the NHL as well as the aftermath of the 2004~2005 NHL lockout season.

The Clutch & Grab Era

The “Clutch and Grab Era”, also called the “Dead Puck Era”, refers to a period in the NHL’s history when obstruction and interference were prevalent and not strictly enforced by officials.

It was characterized by players impeding opponents’ progress by grabbing, clutching, hooking, and interfering with their movement on the ice. This style of play often slowed down the game and limited offensive opportunities.

As a result, during this time the average number of goals scored per game in the NHL was extremely low, dropping almost 30% in just 7 years.

Historical Goals Per Game in the NHL - Chart

During this era, players would frequently use their free hand or stick to obstruct opponents, impeding their ability to skate or maintain possession of the puck.

Consequently, heavy, strong players had an advantage during this time, as they could use their strength and size to hold, hook, grab, and interfere with other players. This explains why the average NHL weight continued to climb during this time.

Former NHL All-Star, Dany Heatley (6’4″, 220) came out to practice with our team once – he was a master of the “clutch & grab” style of play.

He had incredible stick strength. In every stick battle, he would find a way to tie you up, and strip the puck off you.

If you tried to skate around him, he would use his reach to nudge you on the shoulder, or tug your arm – just enough to slow you down, and poke the puck away.

The Clutch & Grab Era, however, wouldn’t last forever. The large, heavy, defensive style of hockey was eventually put to an end as a result of key rule changes implemented in the 2004~2005 NHL lockout.

2004-2005 NHL Lockout – What Changed?

Heading into the early 2000s, NHL fans grew tired of the slow, defensive style of hockey being played during the “Clutch and Grab Era.” Watching two teams play intense defense for an hour only to give up a couple of scrappy goals was pretty boring.

Hockey was starting to look like soccer and the fans were not liking it.

So, with its fan base at risk, the NHL decided to implement new rules following the 2004-2005 lockout season. These new rules were designed to promote speed and offensive attack within the NHL, ultimately increasing the goals per game within the league.

The key rules introduced after the 2004 lockout were:

  1. Larger offensive zones
    • Enabled more offensive movement and skating.
  2. Removal of the “Two-Line Offside Rule”
    • Enabled fast-break stretch passes.
      • The “Two-Line Offside Rule” prevented teams from passing the puck from their defensive zone to a player that was already on the opposing team’s side of the red line.
  3. Strict enforcement of obstruction penalties
    • Decreased hooking, holding, and interference within the game.
    • Increased the speed and skill level within the game.
  4. Touch-up offsides:
    • Enabled quick offside regrouping.
    • Increased the pace of the game.
  5. Smaller goalie equipment:
    • Increased scoring.

The new rules were a success, and helped ensure the two things that fans wanted to see:

  • Faster hockey
  • More goals

NHL Players Are Getting Taller, Leaner, and Older

Average NHL Age - Chart

2022-2023 was the oldest season in recorded history with the average NHL player being ~28 years old. The following season also set a record as the tallest season ever in the NHL with the average player being 73.38 inches tall.

Interestingly, the average age in the NHL seems to be inversely correlated to fighting rates in the NHL. Meaning, that the younger the league is, the more fighting there is.

See this graph from our article, “How Often Do Hockey Players Fight?” to see what we mean. The 80s was the youngest era in hockey and also had the highest rates of fighting.

Although age and height seem to be increasing in the NHL, likely due to better overall fitness and nutrition, weight seems to be on the decline.

This data indicates that overall NHL players are getting:

  1. Taller
  2. Leaner
  3. Older

In 2023, the average NHL player is 6’1″, 199 lbs, and 28 years old.





4 responses to “How Big Are Hockey Players”

  1. Dan Lahut Avatar
    Dan Lahut

    This is an outstanding article. It ‘hit the net’ for certain research I was doing, and broke down the statistics almost ‘exactly’ as I needed them ! Sincere Thanks!

    1. Hiro Cox Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Dan. You’re very welcome.

  2. Jordan Thoms Avatar
    Jordan Thoms

    Def. Noticed the losing weight trend, these young guys looks tiny, I can see it being an advantage in deceleration and perpendicular movement on skates, less forward momentum
    A 20% difference could have a lighter guy dancing around a heavier one

    1. Hiro Cox Avatar

      True. Agility seems to be really important in today’s league.

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