Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

Understanding the Game: How Many Periods in Hockey?

how many periods in hockeyhow many periods in hockey

Hockey is one of the most thrilling sports to watch and play, with a fast pace action and intricate team strategies. No matter you are new to the sport or an older fan, knowing the game structure makes one appreciate it more. One thing that is important to know about this game is its division into periods. So how many periods are there in hockey?

The Basics of Hockey Periods

In professional leagues like the NHL (National Hockey League), hockey games are divided into three periods. Every period lasts for 20 minutes with 17 minutes allotted for a break in order to provide players an opportunity to rest and strategize on issues concerning their forthcoming moves. This format remains consistent across various playing levels although exact timings per period may change due to variations in youth leagues and non-professional settings.

Why Three Periods?

The division into three periods has historical roots as well as practical reasons. Physically, hockey is very taxing with players giving it all over short duration of time. At this point, players can recover fully during intermissions while teams adjust their game plans as well as ice maintenance crews fix the surface so that play can continue unabatedly in a fast paced manner.

Moreover, this three-part framework provides natural points for fans to anticipate momentum shifts and strategy unfolding throughout each match. It’s a design that meets both needs – demands for white-knuckle action but also practicality considerations of athletes as well as venues.

Variations in Period Length

While professional and most competitive leagues adhere to the 20-minute period format, there are exceptions. For instance, minor league matches for children take less time per period due to physical limitations of younger players or lack ice time availability at certain places. Likewise, recreational leagues including tournaments may modify times based on scheduling concerns commonly ranging between 12 up through 15 minutes per period.

Overtime and Playoffs

The structure of hockey games changes when the score is tied at the end of the third period. In NHL, regular season games go into a 5 minute sudden death overtime period which is played 3 on 3. If there is still no winner after this overtime, a shootout will determine a victor.

However, during playoffs the format reverts back to the traditional way in which 20-minute overtime periods are played with 5-on-5 men on ice. These can result in marathon games where teams may play multiple extra time periods until one team scores.

Understanding the Flow of the Game

This sense of dynamic flow is supported by division into periods as well as rules that enforce extended action in case there is no clear winner immediately after regular playing time has ended. Each game period closes with flushes towards scoring lines before breaks that bring hope or disappointment for either team. To an extent, it is this rise and fall of events that have made hockey uniquely associated with endurance, plans, and unexpected turnarounds.

The Role of Intermissions

Hockey intermissions do not only provide players with rest and ice restoration. They also allow teams to re-strategize based on the outcome of the previous period. Head coaches assess their rivals’ tactics and player’s performance to make necessary changes in play. For fans, they offer a break to talk about the game, buy at concession stands and enjoy some entertainment provided at the venue.


In conclusion, hockey’s three-period structure remains fundamental in defining this game as it strikes a balance between intense physical exertion and strategic depth. Whether you are watching an NHL game, cheering for a youth team or participating in an adult league, knowing how many periods in hockey exist and why is very valuable as it will raise your interest in the sport. It is said that hockey can be both simple and very complex at one time while it is easy for newbies to understand but at the same time providing endless ways of diversifying approaches for those who know it well.


There is significant transformation in terms of hockey strategy across the first period through to third period. Initially, teams frequently analyze their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses before adopting their style of play accordingly. The opening period usually involves finding rhythm and formulating initial strategies which set pace for the whole match. In second period onwards teams get more aggressive by using more offensive or defensive strategies as they have been learned from earlier part of the game thereby resulting into speedier plays with increased body checks.

By third period emphasis shifts towards taking scoring chances as well as closing down defensively. A team might decide to remove its goalie replacing him/her with an extra attacker if losing by one goal only few minutes before final whistle sound while trailing score wise could see a team become more dedicated on defense so as to preserve its lead (Smith & Schinke). This type of fluid switch on tactics over each chapter epitomizes hockey as a mental battle that necessitates thinking and making decisions in split seconds which are as important to success for a group as speed or muscular power.

By Misty Severi

Misty Severi is a content writer for Buzztum Company. She has special interest in SEO Marketing, European and US.

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