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How Many Periods Does Hockey Play? (Answered 2023)

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How many quarters does hockey playCurious about hockey? You may have heard that it’s played in periods, but how many quarters does a game of hockey consist of?

Unlike other sports, there are actually three 20-minute periods in each game with two breaks between them. While the traditional structure is still used at the professional level, variations exist for amateur and recreational play.

The answer to this question lies within the historical evolution of this popular sport as well as its benefits over multiple quarter formats. Let’s take a closer look at why hockey has remained divided into three periods rather than quarters and what you can expect from each period when attending a match.

Key Takeaways

  • Hockey consists of three 20-minute periods with intermissions.
  • The three-period structure was adopted in the early 1900s and is the same in men’s and women’s hockey.
  • Variations exist for amateur and recreational leagues, as well as for all-star games and exhibitions.
  • Field hockey has adapted to four 15-minute quarters for optimized player performance.

How Many Periods Are There in Hockey?

How Many Periods Are There in Hockey
Let’s break down the hockey period structure. Ice hockey traditionally consists of three 20-minute periods with intermissions between each one. However, variations exist in amateur and recreational leagues, which may use two halves, quarters, or shorter runtime periods to accommodate players at that level.

Traditional Structure

Traditional hockey at all levels consists of three periods, not quarters. This structure allows for more frequent ice cleaning and gives players a chance to rest between intense bursts of play. Though the length of overtime differs, the three regulation periods remain constant.

  • The first, second, and third periods are all 20 minutes of stop time each.
  • There are two intermissions between periods for ice resurfacing and rest.
  • In the NHL, overtime varies: 5 minutes in the regular season or full 20-minute periods in the playoffs.

Variations in Amateur and Recreational Hockey

Though field hockey historically used 2 halves of 35 minutes each, it now plays 4 fifteen-minute quarters to allow for hydration and rest between periods.

Amateur and recreational hockey often follow modified structures compared to professional leagues. Youth and high school leagues may use shorter periods or halves to account for skill and conditioning levels.

Some recreational leagues use runtime periods that end whenever the clock hits 20 minutes, regardless of stoppages.

Quarters are never used in ice hockey, though intermissions provide natural breaks. Knowledge of these variations prevents misconceptions about amateur game length and structure.

Why Does Hockey Use Periods Instead of Quarters?

Why Does Hockey Use Periods Instead of Quarters
Hockey does not use quarters; it is divided into three periods of 20 minutes each. This three-period structure evolved historically from the two-half format and provides benefits like additional ice resurfacing, rest periods, and intermissions to visit concession stands.

Historical Evolution

The three-period system in hockey came about in the early 1900s when the Patrick brothers pushed for more frequent ice resurfacings during games. At the time, the poor ice conditions necessitated cleaning the playing surface every 20 minutes.

The Patricks lobbied for the switch from two halves to three 20-minute periods to improve ice quality. This allowed for intermissions to shovel loose ice, repair gouges, and resurface between periods.

The improved ice led to faster, higher-scoring games. The three-period system stuck and became the standard structure we still see in hockey leagues worldwide today. It allows for ice maintenance while providing rest and strategy time for players.

Benefits of Periods

Adjusting to intermissions allows players more time for resting and coaches additional opportunities for strategizing between periods in ice hockey.

The periods structure in hockey provides several key benefits:

  1. Players get two dedicated rest breaks to recover energy.
  2. Coaches can make tactical adjustments between periods.
  3. Fans can buy food and drinks during intermissions.
  4. The ice can be resurfaced for better quality skating.

Shifting from halves to periods improved the overall hockey experience for all involved.

How Long Does Each Period Last in Real Time?

How Long Does Each Period Last in Real Time
You might be wondering how long a period actually takes in a hockey game once you factor in all the interruptions and intermissions for ice resurfacing. Well, despite hockey periods officially being 20 minutes on the clock, all the stoppages mean that a period lasts around 40 minutes of real time from start to finish.

Interruptions and Intermissions

You’re probably wondering why the ice gets cleaned so often during hockey games. The frequent intermissions serve multiple purposes – they allow the ice to be resurfaced for better play, give players a chance to rest and strategize between periods, and provide opportunities for fans to buy concessions without missing game action.

Though an inconvenience, these 15-minute breaks between the three regulation 20-minute periods are an integral part of hockey’s structure, even extending overtime during playoffs until a winner emerges.

Ice Resurfacing

Resurface twice while the game plays in three twenty-minute periods. As the players leave the benches for intermission, the buzz of the Zamboni hums across the freshly groomed ice. Like clockwork, the machine circles to renew the rink surface, clearing away divots, snow spray, and scraped designs.

Spectators stretch their legs in the concourse while maintenance teams coordinate the delicate resurfacing process. The ice reset reinvigorates the arena, prepping flawless sheets for the next period’s action.

Crisp passes, edges, and momentum await thanks to the dedicated efforts behind the glass.

Do Women’s Hockey Games Also Have Three Periods?

Do Women
Women’s empowerment blossoms when we embrace their three-period games. Just like the men’s professional leagues, women’s hockey at all levels utilizes the standard three twenty-minute periods format. This allows for consistent rules and timing across both genders, showcasing the women’s athletic abilities and endurance on the same playing field.

Women hockey athletes train and compete with the same ferocious energy, technical skills, and strategic aptitude throughout the rapid shifts between offense and defense during each period. Whether it’s tense overtime thrillers in the playoffs or international tournament gold medal matches, female hockey stars shine through three periods of fast-paced, physical exertion.

The evolution of women’s hockey honors the origins of the sport while continuing to build an inclusive future. As we cheer on women’s rapid strides on the ice, their parity in period format spotlights their rightful place in hockey history.

Equity emerges when we recognize women’s hockey mastery across three periods of intense competition.

What Are the Overtime Rules in Hockey?

What Are the Overtime Rules in Hockey
Hockey does not have quarters. Hockey games consist of three periods of 20 minutes each.

In the regular season, if the game is tied after three periods, there is a five-minute overtime followed by a shootout if still tied. In the playoffs, additional 20-minute overtime periods are added until a team scores to end the game.

Regular Season Overtime

After regulation, you hit bonus hockey with a 5-minute, 3-on-3 period before a shootout settles things.

If still tied after overtime, each team gets 3 skaters to crease dance for a 1v1 breakaway.

Playoff overtime is continuous sudden death periods, so stock up on popcorn and pray for that sweet goal light.

Quarters are for football and basketball, hockey rolls with 3 twenty-minute periods.

Hope ya picked up some solid overtime rules, ’cause extra time is where legends are born.

Playoff Overtime

You must enter sudden-death overtime in the highest stakes of the NHL playoffs. The tension builds as teams battle in 20-minute periods of extra time until one scores the coveted sudden-death goal.

  • Scoreless games enter extended overtime periods, with historic games lasting into double and triple overtime.
  • Shootout rules don’t apply here – it’s continuous, full-strength hockey until there’s a winner.
  • The intensity amplifies with each overtime period in a playoff matchup; players dig deep to survive these long games.

What is the Purpose of Intermissions in Hockey?

What is the Purpose of Intermissions in Hockey
Lace up your skates and head to the bench for the intermissions in hockey games to catch your breath, strategize with your team, and refuel before hitting the ice again for the next period.

Purpose: Rest and Recovery

Description: Players get a chance to rest muscles and recover energy for the upcoming period. This is especially critical before the high-intensity third period.

Purpose: Strategic Planning

Description: Coaches analyze play and devise plans to counter opponents’ tactics and exploit weaknesses in the next period.

Purpose: Ice Maintenance

Description: Crews resurface the ice, repair any damage, and make sure conditions are optimal.

Purpose: Fan Engagement

Description: Fans can purchase concessions, use facilities, socialize, and build excitement for the next period.

These built-in breaks add prestige and allow field hockey’s fluid play with strategically used timeouts.

Now lace up and hit the fresh ice – it’s time to execute the game plan and leave everything on the ice in pursuit of victory!

Are There Any Exceptions to the Three-Period Structure in Hockey?

Are There Any Exceptions to the Three-Period Structure in Hockey
There are a couple of exceptions to the standard three-period structure in hockey. For special events like all-star games and exhibitions, hockey sometimes uses two halves or even four quarters to encourage more scoring opportunities and spectator engagement.

Additionally, field hockey has adapted to use four 15-minute quarters, allowing for more frequent hydration breaks and additional strategic planning between the periods.

All-Star Games and Exhibitions

Although ice hockey typically consists of three periods, the NHL All-Star Game uses two halves to encourage more scoring for the exhibition match. The format differs from a typical game to make the All-Star Game more high-scoring and entertaining for fans.

Having just two halves allows players to take more offensive risks and focus on creative plays and shots, rather than defensive strategies. By limiting the game to two high-energy halves instead of three standard periods, the pace of play increases.

With no bearing on season standings, the All-Star Game offers a fun spectacle for fans to see their favorite superstars experiment and light the lamp. The unorthodox two-half structure makes the mid-season exhibition an exciting exception to the usual hockey format.

Field Hockey Adaptations

While field hockey originally had two halves of play, the sport adapted to using four 15-minute quarters for improved player hydration and rest periods. The shift allows athletes to replenish fluids and catch their breath between quarters.

The shorter 15-minute quarters replace the previous 35-minute halves. This modification brings field hockey timing more in line with sports like basketball and soccer, which already leveraged quarters.

The change evolved relatively recently as field hockey incorporated more scientific training and recovery methods.

Overall, the field hockey adjustments highlight how sports can adapt their traditional structures to optimize player performance.


Have you ever wondered how many periods are in a hockey game? It’s an interesting question and one that has changed over time.

For the most part, hockey is played in three 20-minute periods, with 15-minute intermissions. This structure was adopted in the early 1900s to improve player rest and encourage fan visits to concession stands.

In addition, the longer periods allow for more strategy and a better flow of the game.

Overtime rules vary based on the game type, with regular season games having five minutes followed by a shootout, and playoffs having 20-minute periods until someone scores. Except for all-star games and exhibitions, the three-period structure is the same in men’s and women’s hockey.

So the next time you watch a hockey game, you’ll know how long each period is and why it’s structured the way it is.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is an author and software engineer from the United States, I and a group of experts made this blog with the aim of answering all the unanswered questions to help as many people as possible.