Hockey is a game chock full of unique traditions and strange rules. From fights -- and the lack of punishment -- to the chaotic subbing system, it can be an intimidating game for the beginner fan.
Take it from someone who has been there. I attended my first hockey game in college and upon the conclusion of the second period, I stood up assuming the game was over only to quickly be informed there was a whole 20 more minutes of play.
What is the purpose of that third period? And why is hockey alone in its rule?
Here’s a look at hockey periods and the history behind them:
How many periods are there in hockey?
Unlike most sports that play in halves and quarters, hockey has opted to take the road less traveled -- three 20-minute periods each with a 15-minute intermission before the second and third periods.
Why does hockey have three periods?
The three-period system actually originates with those 15-minute intermissions.
Prior to 1910, hockey games were played in two 30-minute halves. However, the constant buildup of snow and ice -- decades before a tinker named Frank Zamboni sought to improve the surface quality of the local ice rink -- led to rusting and could result in injuries and delays.
Legend has it that Frank and Lester Patrick -- hockey legends for their contributions on the ice and in developing the game -- spearheaded the shift to three periods. The brothers apparently believed the change would allow for more frequent rink cleanings while offering players additional rest and encouraging fans to visit concession stands.
By the time the NHL rolled out several years later, the three-period structure was well underway and has remained a staple for over 100 years.
Does women’s hockey also have three periods?
Yes. While some sports like college basketball differ on their timing rules depending on gender, hockey keeps it consistent across the men’s and women’s game. '
What are the NHL’s overtime rules?
While NHL overtime rules vary depending on whether it’s a regular season or playoff matchup, one thing the league is unwavering on -- sudden death.
In the regular season, the NHL plays a five minute, three-on-three overtime. If neither team scores in that five minute period, the game then turns into a shootout with each team having three chances to go one-on-one against the goalie. If the score is still unchanged after three rounds of a shootout, the stakes increase with the team to score the next goal being declared winner.
In the playoffs, teams have a full 20-minute overtime to settle things. They continue to play sudden-death overtime periods until one team finds the back of the next.
There is no shootout in the playoffs.