Hockey is a fast-paced and exhilarating sport that has gained popularity worldwide. One of the most common questions asked by those new to the game is how long is a hockey period?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A standard ice hockey game consists of three periods, each lasting 20 minutes of play time.

In this article, we’ll go beyond this quick answer and provide a comprehensive understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding the length of a hockey period.

The Basics of a Hockey Period

When it comes to understanding the game of hockey, one of the most fundamental elements is the concept of a period.

What is a period in hockey?

A period in hockey refers to a specific segment of gameplay that lasts for a set amount of time. Typically, a hockey game is divided into three periods, with each period being 20 minutes long.

How long is a hockey period?

As mentioned, a typical hockey period lasts for 20 minutes. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, at the youth level, periods may be shortened to 15 or 12 minutes in order to accommodate for shorter attention spans or less developed skill sets. Additionally, in certain professional leagues, such as the National Hockey League (NHL), the length of periods may be extended in certain circumstances. For example, during playoff games, periods may be extended to 25 minutes in order to ensure a clear winner.

What happens during a period break?

At the end of each period, there is typically a 15-minute intermission. During this break, players will head to their locker rooms to rest and regroup. Additionally, the ice will be resurfaced in order to ensure a smooth playing surface for the next period.

It’s important to note that while periods serve as a fundamental element of the game, they are not the only factor that determines the duration of a hockey game. Other factors, such as stoppages in play, can also impact the length of a game.

Overtime and Shootouts

After three periods, if the game is tied, teams will play a sudden-death overtime period. The overtime period lasts for five minutes, and whichever team scores first wins the game. If no team scores during the overtime period, the game proceeds to a shootout.

During a shootout, each team selects three players to take turns shooting at the opposing team’s goalie. The team with the most goals after three rounds wins the game. If the score is still tied after three rounds, the shootout continues with a sudden-death format until one team scores and the other team misses.

The NHL has specific rules regarding which players can participate in the shootout. Players must be on the ice at the end of overtime, and the same player cannot shoot twice until all players have had a chance to shoot.

It’s important to note that not all hockey leagues use shootouts to determine the winner of a tied game. Some leagues, such as the American Hockey League, play a 3-on-3 overtime period before proceeding to a shootout, while others, such as the International Ice Hockey Federation, use a 5-on-5 overtime period with a sudden-death format.

Penalties and Stoppage of Play

Penalties and stoppage of play can have significant impacts on the length of a hockey period. A typical hockey period lasts 20 minutes, but penalties can lead to additional time being added to the clock.

If a team is penalized during a period, the offending player must serve time in the penalty box. The length of the penalty can vary depending on the infraction, ranging from two minutes to five minutes or more. During this time, the penalized team must play with one less player on the ice, known as a power play for the opposing team. If the opposing team scores a goal during the power play, the penalized player may return to the ice, but the power play time still counts towards the period.

If play is stopped during a period due to an injury, equipment issue, or other reasons, the clock will be paused until play resumes. The timekeeper will add additional time to the period to make up for the stoppage, usually the amount of time that was lost.

During playoffs, the length of a hockey period can be extended to accommodate for overtime periods. If the game is tied at the end of the third period, a sudden death overtime period is played until one team scores a goal. The length of the overtime period can vary depending on the league and level of play, but typically lasts between five and 20 minutes.

  • Penalties can add additional time to a period
  • Play stoppages result in added time to the period
  • Overtime periods can extend the length of a game during playoffs

It is important for players, coaches, and fans to understand the impact of penalties and stoppages on the length of a hockey period. For more information on the rules and regulations of hockey, visit the NHL Rules website.

Strategy and Time Management

Ice hockey is a fast-paced and exciting sport that requires strategic time management from coaches and players. Each period in a hockey game is 20 minutes long, with a 15-minute intermission between each period. During the game, coaches must make quick decisions on when to substitute players and call timeouts to rest their team and adjust their strategy.

How do coaches manage time during a period? Coaches must balance the need to keep their best players on the ice while giving them enough rest to stay fresh throughout the game. They must also consider the time left in the period and the score of the game when deciding when to pull their goalie for an extra attacker or to take a timeout to rest their team.

What strategies can teams use to maximize their time on the ice? Teams can use strategic line changes to keep fresh players on the ice and take advantage of their opponents’ tiredness. They can also use quick breakouts and passing plays to move the puck quickly and efficiently up the ice, maximizing their time in the offensive zone.

How does the length of a period affect player endurance? The length of a period in hockey can impact player endurance, especially in longer games or during overtime periods. Players must maintain their endurance and physical conditioning to perform at their best throughout a game. Endurance training and proper hydration and nutrition are crucial for players to maintain their energy levels and avoid fatigue during a game.


In conclusion, understanding the length and rules surrounding a hockey period is crucial for any fan or player of the game. While a standard game consists of three periods, there are various factors that can affect the length and outcome of a game. By familiarizing yourself with these rules and regulations, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the sport and enjoy the game to its fullest.

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