How Many Periods in a Hockey Game? Minor League, NHL and AHL

Most sports are played in halves or quarters, but in hockey, it is played in periods. The use of periods can seem more difficult to explain than the use of quarters or halves. 

This leaves us with so many questions like: What number of periods are there in NHL games? Are all of the games the same duration? 

If you’re new to hockey, the idea of a period might sound strange to you, but they help the game go by quickly. Furthermore, the conclusion of each period is the ideal time to go get yourself a bar for snacks or use the toilet.

How Many Periods Are in Hockey? 

In most cases, whether it’s in the NHL or AHL, it follows a standard rule: three periods of 20 minutes each, however, the actual duration is longer than the 60 minutes of total game time for various reasons. 

Between these three periods, there are two intermissions. The intermissions last between 15 and 17 minutes, allowing players to take a break and coaches time to think about strategies and Zambonis an opportunity to smooth the skating ice.

As I said earlier, the same structure is in place for all sports, regardless of whether you’re playing in the NHL or AHL.

In the lower age division, it’s not unusual to have lesser periods or periods that are shorter in length. Games that end in a tie may use extra periods (overtime). Recreational and youth hockey periods are usually between 15 and 20 minutes each.

How Long Are Hockey Intermissions?

Lets understand the reasons for breaking hockey games into three parts: 

  • Resurfacing the ice
  • To keep the field of play clean
  • Which in turn keeps the pace of play fast
  • And of course, players can rest

If you’ve watched some professional league games or even college games, you must have noticed that during each half, a big truck (or, in some instances, two trucks) makes its way out onto the ice and then drives around in circles in about 10 to 15 minutes.

The driver of that truck, known as a Zamboni, isn’t taking a trip before thousands of people or taking a joy ride. What he or she’s doing is cleaning the ice and sprinkling water on the surface of the ice.

The water fills up, ruts, cracks, and other imperfections on the ice. It then freezes to make the rink appear and feels brand new. At the beginning of every period, you’ll observe players moving faster, and their passes appear sharper.

Are There 4 periods in hockey?

No, 4 periods in hockey game doesn’t exist. There are only three periods in a hockey game.

What are these players doing in each Intermission?

During intermissions, the players are allowed to return to their lockers to relax and discuss their game plan for the coming period.

Hockey is a very exhausting sport, and the two breaks that occur in between a game can help players remain fresh. Every intermission gives coaches a chance to inform their players of what they’re seeing on the playing field and guide them to make adjustments to improve their performance during the next period.

For the fans, every interval is a chance to visit the restroom or pick up a snack bar. Unlike football games, which may feature a halftime performance or a marching band on the field in a hockey match, entertainment on the ice aside from the game is likely not possible because the Zamboni is busy resurfacing it.

How Long Is Overtime In Hockey? 

If a game ends in a tie at the end of regulation, the game will go into an overtime period to determine who will win. The duration of overtime is different depending on the level of play and the time of the year.

In the regular season, games tied at the end of regulation in the NHL go to a sudden death five-minute overtime time. If neither side scores in time, games will decide through a shootout that will continue until a winner emerges.

During the playoffs, NHL overtime periods are scheduled for 20 minutes and will continue until a goal is scored or the winner is decided by sudden death.

Other Reasons A Hockey Game May Take Longer 

Apart from the three 20-minute periods and the overtime, there are many other reasons a hockey match will be longer than other sports.

For instance, each team is given 60 seconds of timeouts during a game. Also, there are breaks that allow for TV commercials between games during which the ice is cleaned.

Injuries and penalties can also add time to the clock. If a player has an injury and needs to be helped to get off the floor, additional time is added to the clock. Similar to injuries, each offense results in either a two or five-minute power play (penalty), depending on the extent of the offense.

How Do Shootouts Work in Hockey? 

Shootouts are played with players from both teams getting the chance to play through the middle of the ice toward the opponent’s goal without any defense.

In the NHL regular season, during games that lead to shootouts, each team gets three shots. The teams alternate scoring chances, with one team trying to score first and the other following.

If, after the three opportunities that neither team has scored or scored the same number of times, the shootout moves to a sudden death phase. In the sudden-death stage, each team gets one more chance and the team that scores first wins.

If neither side scores, or each team scores, then the shootout continues until one team scores, but the other team doesn’t, while the team scoring wins the match.

Although the idea of shootouts has been in use in hockey for quite some time, they were only introduced in the NHL regular-season overtime format during 2005/2006.

While it’s certainly a fun and thrilling method to conclude the game, some hockey fans question whether it’s an acceptable way to end it.

How many periods in minor league hockey?

In minor league hockey, such as the American Hockey League (AHL) or the ECHL (formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League), the structure of the game is similar to the NHL but can have some variations depending on the league’s rules and regulations. Typically, minor league hockey games also consist of three periods, each lasting around 20 minutes.

How Many Periods are in Hockey High School and Minor league? 

The minor league and high school levels usually consist of three periods too. Like professional leagues, these periods provide a foundational structure. Although the lengths and rules can differ slightly based on local regulations, the three-period system is standard.

Minor leagues and high schools remain vital to hockey’s culture even though they are less widely watched compared to hockey’s major leagues, such as the NHL, AHL, or the Olympics.

How Many Periods Are in the Hockey Olympics? 

In the Olympics, one of the most well-known competitions, Ice hockey is a popular sport that attracts viewers around the world. In this prestigious competition, the game is split into three periods that last just 20 minutes per period. 

Olympic hockey is governed by a special overtime rule in the case of a tie game. The length of the sudden death overtime varies by the tournament stage, which adds more excitement and uncertainty to the game.


Hockey is a fast-paced, exciting sport that has captured the attention of a vast majority of fans around the world. Hockey is played on ice and with two teams that are comprised of six players, which includes the goalie. The aim of the sport is to score more goals than the opposition team.

As you’ve read, the hockey game comprises three periods lasting 20 minutes each. There is a 15-17 minutes intermission between the initial and subsequent periods.

In each period of the game, teams strive to score the most goals they can while also protecting their goalpost. If the game is tied at the conclusion of the 3rd period, there will be an overtime period. If neither team scores during overtime, a shootout will be held to determine the winner.

As a hockey fan, I must say that the three-period format of hockey games is one of the reasons why I love this sport so much. The fast-paced action and constant back-and-forth between teams create an exciting experience that keeps me on the edge of my seat.

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