How Many Periods in Hockey? A Comprehensive Guide


how many periods in hockey

Known as “the fastest game on ice,” hockey is a thrilling sport that draws in millions of spectators and participants every year. If you’re unfamiliar with hockey or just want to learn more about its format, you might be wondering, “How many periods are there in a hockey game?” Here, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of hockey periodization, including how it varies from league to league.

Understanding Periods in Hockey

A “period” is a defined period of time in ice hockey, during which time there is no intermission in play. These pauses are crucial for teams to reorganize, make lineup changes, and give players some much-needed rest. In a typical hockey game, there are three quarters.

Standard Period Duration

There are 20 minutes between periods in a typical hockey game, regardless of whether it is played in the National Hockey League (NHL), the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), or any other major league. The 20-minute time frame is split in two, with the first half lasting 10 minutes and the second half lasting 10 minutes. There is a 17-minute break between periods to allow players to recuperate and the ice to be resurfaced after the first 10 minutes of play.

Overtime Periods

When the score is deadlocked after three periods of regular NHL play, a five-minute period of sudden death overtime is played. Overtime periods during the regular season are played with fewer players on each side, making for a frantic and thrilling game.

Shootout (NHL)

Shootouts are used in the NHL if the score is still tied after the extra session. Each side chooses three players to take penalty shots, and the victor is determined by the team with the most goals. The shootout is the only method utilized to determine a winner during the regular season; the playoffs follow a different format.

Playoff Overtime

Overtime is handled differently in the hockey playoffs. A playoff game is not over until one team scores in sudden death. There is no shootout in postseason hockey, although the break between periods remains at 17 minutes.

International Variations

The National Hockey League and the International Ice Hockey Federation use a 20-minute, three-period format, however other hockey leagues may use different time limits. Some European leagues, for instance, employ 15-minute halves, while youth and lower-level divisions may have entirely different regulations. Always double-check the rules of the league or tournament you want to watch or participate in.


Each period lasts 20 minutes, and there is a 17-minute break between the first and second half of a hockey game. Rules for overtime and shootouts change from league to league and from regular season to postseason. Your appreciation for the game and the strategies and stamina demanded of hockey players of all levels will increase after you grasp these time formats. Next time you tune in to a hockey game, you’ll be fully prepared!


Q: How many periods are there in a standard hockey game?

There are typically three periods in a hockey game.

Q: How long does each period in hockey typically last?

A typical hockey game will include a 20-minute playing time per session and a 17-minute halftime between halves.

Q: What happens in overtime in NHL games during the regular season?

If a regular season NHL game ends in a tie after three periods, a five-minute session of sudden death overtime is played. In the event of a tie, a shootout will be held.

Q: How do playoff overtime periods differ from regular season overtime in hockey?

Without a shootout, extra periods in the playoffs can go on forever until a team scores in sudden death. The timeouts in overtime will continue to be 17 minutes.

Q: Do all hockey leagues follow the same period structure?

No, period lengths can vary between leagues and tournaments. several leagues may have shorter times of play than others, such as several European leagues using 15-minute quarters. Knowing the rules of the league or tournament you are watching or playing in is crucial.

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