How Many Periods in Hockey Game? How Long is Each? (NHL & Recreational)

How Many Periods are in a Hockey Game

Imagine constantly playing the whole game without a break or watching a continuous game where the players are so tired that they want it to end! What thrill would such a game provide? Tiredness and tiring faces would not be any pleasure.

So, how many periods in an ice hockey game are played? An ice hockey game comprises three periods of 20 minutes each with two intermissions of 15 minutes between each period. During the regular season and playoffs, if an ice hockey game is tied at the end of the second and third periods each, it will be decided by either a 5-minute or 20-minute overtime period with a first period only. If a hockey game is still tied in the overtime period, it will be followed by a shootout.

Let’s take a breakdown of how many quarters and half hours and how many periods in most sports in hockey to understand why hockey has periods and half hours rather than halves and quarters, how many periods in hockey and most team’s sports (with few exceptions), and how real-time games play into NHL.

Were NHL hockey games always three periods long?

The key reason behind the three-game periods is the ice quality. NHL officials noticed local ice rink surfaces get down when playing 30 minutes long. Snow building and ice chips are often there; how many professional hockey games the periods are, affecting the puck’s smooth flow and players’ pace also, typical hockey game slows down.

Therefore, they decided to divide the NHL’s two 30-minute additional overtime periods into three 20 minutes playoff overtime periods. It is beneficial for the ice to resurface with Zamboni after every additional overtime period of regulation time of 20 minutes instead of playoff overtime periods of 30 minutes.

Ice Hockey Periods

The poor quality of snow in rinks, with ice chips and little snow mounts, makes the ice hockey game move very slowly as the puck’s smooth travel turns bouncy because of friction. Also, players face difficulty in skating as their overall game speed becomes slow, and they have high chances of injuries. At a minimum, the ice chips can make the player trip and fall on the ice unexpectedly. Further, a player’s skate can get trapped in the chips giving them severe injuries like sprains, ACLs / MCLs, etc.

Note that each overtime period only lasts for 20 minutes. Still, in actuality, a more typical hockey game or playoff game is, the players playing time on the ice goes from the sudden death overtime periods, the period lasts a three to five-minute period, structured about 40 or 45 minutes, including all stoppages, penalties, timeouts, goals, injuries, and more.

So, NHL brought the 15-minute intermission between each period to resurface the ice (the intermission and ice resurfacing part is explained below).

Other sports than national hockey association on the local ice rink resurfacing has many other sports for different reasons, most sports such:

  • Players break and team plan – Players and coach discuss and plan different game strategies in a break.
  • Audience time (for food and drinks) – In this short free time, spectators can go get some food and drinks for energy to enjoy the rest of the match.
  • Marketing – Fans who watch matches on their televisions at home. The NHL uses this break for advertising and marketing their sponsors in addition to the TV Timeouts time.

So, now you get why an ice hockey game is played and has three rounds or periods, not three rounds or two halves.

Does hockey ever have two halves or four-quarters?

Other major junior leagues other than amateur major junior leagues, there is another example of a national hockey league game where you can see two halves instead of three periods – the All-Star NHL game.

The NHL-level All-Star game is different from other NHL regular season games in how many periods. The All-Star game is played in three skaters vs. three formats rather than in five vs. three skaters in five formats and is played in 40 minutes, not in 60 minutes. This means they only have two periods of typical NHL-level professional hockey games, not three.

Does Hockey Ever Have Two Halves Or Four Quarters

This is done to make the team get scores to win and create a game-scoring atmosphere for the team and the players where they play well and the team can score many goals. Whether they play good or bad, NHL makes all its efforts to make the team get maximum, and whichever team scores wins in games in either way possible and not just make hockey period a regular showcase game.

Additional Periods: Overtime

If whichever team scores and wins an entire regular season game or playoff game is tied up at the end of regulation, then there will be additional 5 minutes of overtime added to the game.

Additional Periods Overtime

Between the entire third period and fourth period, the two fifteen-minute intermissions and the 5 minutes additional, there will be no gap given of the intermission to clear ice, and the game will resume within 5 minutes.

When none of the team scores, three skaters on the team score in the first period or the first team or overtime period, and the game is still tied, the play will be followed by a shootout.

When the play the game ends and the game moves to the shootout, the Zambonis will quickly move onto the ice and will resurface the ice around it. There are two Zambonis for each arena. Both will swiftly lap the ice surface down the center to smooth the shooting areas for hockey players. Hence, making it easy for hockey players to make professional shoots with smooth skating.

In the case of playoffs, structure the regulation time when the game is tied at the end of 3 periods. There will be an entire 15-minute intermission between the sudden death overtime period, the first three-period structure, the third overtime, the three-period structure, and the first overtime period because the playoffs overtime period lasts for many periods of 20 minutes.

This sudden death in the format of playoff games will keep on unless one team scores which are called sudden or sudden death overtime periods. This sudden death also happens more in professional hockey games and often in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

How long does a period take to play in real time?

Here is how a full game ends in how many period in hockey professional hockey game’s periods would flow:

07:00 PMNational Anthem
07:05 PMPuck Drop to start 1st Period
07:45 PMFirst Intermission
08:00 PMPuck Drop to start 2nd Period
08:40 PMSecond Intermission
08:55 PMPuck Drop to start 3rd Period
09:35 PMGame End

NHL games with the most overtime periods

Here are the NHL games in the regular season with the most overtime periods played by the first team in the regular season game in history

DateTeamsScoreOvertime LengthTotal Periods
April 3, 1933Toronto vs Boston1-0104 minutes 46 seconds9
March 24, 1936Detroit vs. Montreal Maroon1-0116 minutes 30 seconds9
May 4, 2000Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh2-192 minutes 1 second8
April 24, 2003Anaheim vs. Dallas4-380 minutes 48 seconds8
April 24, 1996Pittsburgh vs. Washington3-279 minutes 15 seconds7
April 11, 2007Vancouver vs. Dallas5-478 minutes 6 seconds7
March 23, 1943Toronto vs. Detroit3-270 minutes 18 seconds7
May 4, 2008Dallas vs. San Jose2-169 minutes 3 seconds7
April 18, 1937New York Islanders vs. Washington3-268 minutes 47 seconds7
March 28, 1930Montreal Canadians vs. New York Rangers2-168 minutes 52 seconds7
NHL Games with the Most Overtime Periods

Frequently Asked Questions

Does hockey have 3 or 4 periods?

What periods do you use for hockey? Hockey has opted for shorter trips – three 20-minute intervals, each with a 15-minute intermission before a second and third period.

Is there a 4th period in hockey?

Since a hockey game generally involves 3 phases, the fourth in overtime.

Why are there 3 periods in hockey?

Hockey is played on ice for three periods ensuring good play. The longer a player skates at the rink, the less the ice quality. Dividing the game into three periods is easier to manage than two because the Zamboni eliminates the ice and makes it more accessible.

How many quarters does a hockey game have?

None. Professional league games of ice hockey games have three periods, not four-quarters. Field hockey has 3 periods and four quarters in a game. Each of 3 periods in the professional league games of ice hockey games in ice hockey games with four quarters is 15 minutes; after each period lasts a quarter, the players get a 2-minute break. Ice hockey is professionally played in periods of 20 minutes, not in quarters, with rules different from field hockey.

Do all hockey games are divided into three periods?

Not all; some youth hockey and recreational leagues are shorter than professional and professional league games. Sometimes amateur and junior hockey team scores and even professional league games and recreational leagues’ game times vary provisional to how long their local ice hockey rink is allowed to use. Moreover, their game clock click on run time means it will not stop in intermissions. Plus, there may be more games scheduled following that day. That’s why they adjusted the game clock down to fit in.

Does Ice get cleaned during periods in recreational hockey?

Well, it depends on which team scores the level. The NHL hockey game is divided into three periods; each period of the NHL hockey game is usually played run time, showing that the clock will keep clicking. Thus, the maximum time for play in the national hockey league is 60 minutes, which is okay with the nature of players as they are not pro-like rash players on the same ice surface. However, the high-end professional hockey leagues have 20 minutes breaks per period, just like the NHL. But the whole ice surface will only get cleaned between the 2nd and 3rd-period gap as these buildings are calmer than to NHL, so the ice has more strength to remain in good shape.

How many sports have three periods?

Ice hockey is the only sport that has three periods. No other sport has three periods. The national hockey association lasts 20 minutes each hockey period, and the clock is tick-tick while the players play the puck. Between each hockey period, there is an intermission of 15 minutes, one between the 1st and 2nd periods and the second period between the 2nd and 3rd hockey periods. Suppose the game gets tied at the end of the last two third periods. Then the whole game will go into the 5 minutes of overtime of the third and fourth periods. If overtime still gets hitched, the game will then decide by the shootout.


This is all about the hockey periods. All the queries about the two and three periods, two halves and four quarters, the intermission between the first and second periods, fourth period, first and second periods, second period and third period first, second and third periods, and the regular season and playoffs intermission pattern are clear to you. And hopefully, you get the actual game structure.

Austin Taylor

Who is Austin Taylor?

Meet Austin Taylor, your go-to source for everything ice hockey! With a passion for the sport that’s as deep as the ice itself, Austin Taylor brings you concise, expert insights and nitty-gritty details on all things hockey. From gear reviews to strategy breakdowns, Austin Taylor is your trusted guide to navigating the exhilarating world of ice hockey. Get ready to lace up your skates and dive into the game with Austin Taylor as your ultimate companion.

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