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How Many Periods In Ice Hockey Are There? A Game Breakdown

How Many Periods In Ice Hockey

Many people tend to make misconceptions about how many periods in ice hockey are played during a game and how long one match lasts. What if we told you that hockey is one of the longest games to watch live? In this article, you’ll learn how long that is and what all goes into a single game of this unique sport, from preparation to execution, even overtime. So, let’s ’slide in’.

Here is everything about ice hockey periods and a quick breakdown of how time is kept.


Unlike most sports, there are three 20-minute periods in ice hockey. They don’t flow in real-time like a soccer game but instead receive stoppages.

Before the ice hockey season of 1910-11, games were played in 2 halves, 30 minutes each.


The intermission lasts around 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how quick a Zamboni is, which is the machine that needs to clean and fix the ice surface during a hockey game.

Hockey players benefit greatly from the timeout as the sport is very demanding. A game moves to intermissions after the first and second periods.

There are also intermissions in-between the third period and overtime.


Ice Hokey Timeouts

Timeouts last only 30 seconds in professional hockey. Coaches have one allowed timeout, which can only be called during regulation time.

The biggest difference between professional and college and junior games is that college and junior hockey timeouts last a minute.

Hockey Overtime Rules

Hockey overtime rules depend on whether a game is during a regular season or playoffs.

In a regular season, overtime periods last five minutes and are sudden death, which means they go on until one team scores.

In a playoff season, overtime periods last twenty minutes and are sudden death.


Every sport has a way of settling tie games, as does hockey. If a game is still tied after the five-minute overtime in a regular or pre-season, a shootout commences and settles the winner.

In a shootout, a team shoots one-on-one against a goalie, with three attempts for both teams.

In a playoff season, overtime is 20 minutes and ends when one team scores. If no team scores during overtime in playoffs, it can result in a very long game since overtime repeats and there is no shootout.

An Example Of A Real-Time Flow Of Events At A Hockey Game

7 pmNational Anthem
7:05 pmPuck Drop For Start Of First Period
7:45 pmFirst Intermission
8 pmPuck Drop For Start Of Second Period
8:40 pmSecond Intermission
8:55 pmPuck Drop For Start Of Third Period
9:35 pmEnd Of Game

How Long Does It Take To Play A Period In Real Time?

It takes around forty minutes to play a period in real time due to stoppages and TV breaks so they could display advertisements, meaning that the game lasts a little over two hours. There are two TV commercial breaks each period.

According to ice hockey rules, you can switch players during stoppages and ad-breaks.

How Long Is A Hockey Period?

A hockey period is 20 minutes long, but it doesn’t unfold in real time. There are pauses when an offside, penalty or other events occur that require a stop, followed by a face-off. The period extends quite a bit due to all the stoppages.

Youth hockey games are significantly shorter.

How Long Is A Hockey Intermission?

A hockey intermission is 20 minutes long because a Zamboni needs to resurface the ice.

Ice gets damaged, dented and filthy during a game which affects how difficult it is for hockey players to skate and how well a hockey puck moves.

What Happens Between Each Period During A Hockey Match?

Between Periods During A Hockey Match

Here are things that go on between each period during a hockey match.

Resurfacing Of The Ice

The Ice surface is resurfaced and cleaned up using a Zamboni.

Player Breaks And Team Regroup

Ice hockey games are very tiring, so the players really benefit from the long intermission.

Spectator Breaks: Food, Beverages And Bathroom

Despite 20-minute periods, an average period lasts 40 minutes in real time.


Throwing ads on during a live game is detrimental to at-home viewers.

What Happens If A Regular Season Game Is Tied After The Third Period?

If a regular season game is tied after the third period, the game goes into sudden death overtime. NHL regular season games have a five-minute overtime period.

If neither team scores during the overtime period, a shootout is conducted to declare the winner.

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What Happens If A Playoff Game Is In A Tie After The Third Period?

If a playoff game is in a tie after a third period, the game goes into sudden-death overtime lasting 20 minutes, which means that the first team to score a goal in the 20-minute overtime wins the game.

If the teams are tied after overtime, there is an intermission and another overtime until a deciding goal is shot.

How Do Shootouts Work In Hockey?

Shootouts In Hockey

Shootouts work in hockey as a one-on-one attempt at a goal where a forward, starting at the center point of the rink, has a single shooting attempt at a goal versus the goalkeeper.

Both teams get three rounds to score a goal and can choose whatever forwards they want for those three attempts.

Were NHL Games Always Three Periods?

NHL games weren’t always three periods and two intermissions. Before the 1910-11 season, professional hockey games lasted the same time of sixty minutes but were split into two periods of thirty minutes.

The two-way split made sense since most team sports at that time, and even today, have a two-period split. Still, due to ice hockey being a very tiring sport, along with ice needing maintenance more often than any other sort of field, the hour-long game was split into three periods.

List Of Hockey Games With The Most Periods Ever In An NHL Game

 DateHome TeamOppositionScoreTotal LengthOvertime Periods
1March 24, 1936Montreal MaroonsDetroit Red Wings0-1176:306
2April 3, 1933Toronto Maple LeafsBoston Bruins1-0164:466
3May 4, 2000Pittsburgh PenguinsPhiladelphia Flyers1-2152:015
4August 11, 2020Tampa Bay LightningColumbus Blue Jackets3-2150:275
5April 24, 2003Dallas StarsAnaheim Mighty Ducks3-4140:485
6April 24, 1996Washington CapitalsPittsburgh Penguins2-3139:155
7April 11, 2007Vancouver CanucksDallas Stars5-4138:064
8March 23, 1943Detroit Red WingsToronto Maple Leafs2-3130:184
9May 4, 2008Dallas StarsSan Jose Sharks2-1129:034
10March 28, 1930Montreal CanadiensNew York Rangers2-1128:524
11April 18, 1987Washington CapitalsNew York Islanders2-3128:474
12April 27, 1997Buffalo SabresNew Jersey Devils1-0125:434
13March 27, 1951Detroit Red WingsMontreal Canadiens2-3121:094
14March 27, 1938New York RangersNew York Americans2-3120:404
15March 26, 1932Montreal CanadiensNew York Rangers3-4119:323

How Many Periods Are There In A Recreational Ice Hockey Game?

There are the same three periods in a recreational ice hockey game as there are in the NHL. The biggest difference between a recreational hockey game and an NHL hockey game is the intermission.

NHL intermissions are longer so a Zamboni could clean the ice up, while there is no Zamboni during a recreational game.

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How Many Periods Are In Women’s Hockey?

There is a three-period structure in women’s hockey, lasting twenty minutes each, which is the same as in men’s hockey.

Intermissions last fifteen to twenty minutes after the first and second periods, the same as men’s hockey. Women’s hockey also has the same overtime as men’s.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Hockey has 3 periods, each lasting 20 minutes. There are also two 15 to 20-minute intermissions in professional league games, unlike many youth hockey games. However, overtime is sometimes called the fourth period.

National Hockey Association, National Hockey League, ECHL, major junior leagues such as OHL and QJHL as well as NCAA college games all have 3 periods.

Hockey does not have 4 quarters but 3 periods. Unlike basketball, hockey teams play 3 periods lasting 20 minutes each, with 15 to 20-minute intermissions before the second and third periods so that a Zamboni could resurface the ice.

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Three periods are played in an ice hockey game. In all types of hockey games, the match goes overtime if there is a tie, sometimes called the fourth period. Hence the misconception.

If neither team scores during overtime, NHL playoffs repeat overtime hockey periods until someone scores, while in every other situation, a shootout is commenced to declare the winning team.


Now you know how many periods in ice hockey get played out during a game. However, you saw that there is much more than three 20-minute periods to it and that an average game is about two hours but can be way longer. The mentioned rules loosely apply to most professional leagues across the world in the modern era, from recreational leagues and European leagues to American and Canadian leagues.

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