How Long Is A Period In Hockey?

Updated: January 18, 2024 by Bill Burniece

Those who are new to the world of hockey often wonder ‘how long is a period in hockey?’

And how is the time divided into three periods?

As you’ll learn below, it depends upon the level of the league and sometime the age of the players.

It also depends on other factors including whether or not the clock is stopped when the whistle blows or if the clock continues to spin regardless of what’s going on in the game.

How Long Are NHL Periods?

NHL hockey games are always 60 minutes in length.

Those 60 minutes are equally divided into three 20-minute periods with an intermission between the end of the first and second periods, when they resurface the ice.

In NHL games, the clock is stopped every time the whistle blows to end a segment of game play. There are at least three ‘TV’ timeouts per period to allow for commercial breaks during the game stoppage.

So even though there are 20 minutes of total game time, the time to complete a period usually takes 30-45 total minutes.

How Long Are Minor League Hockey Periods?

In minor league hockey, AKA semi-pros, the length of each period can vary depending on the specific league and level of play.

However, it’s common for periods to be 20 minutes in length, like those in the National Hockey League (NHL).

There are many minor hockey leagues including the American Hockey League, ECHL, North American Hockey League, Canadian Hockey League, SPHL, International Hockey League, Central Hockey League, United Hockey League, American Hockey Association, and others.

Minor league games do resurface the ice between periods and depending on the league may have TV timeouts as well.

How Long Are Beer League Hockey Periods?

Beer league hockey league rules vary all over the world.

In the league I play in (in Colorado) we play two 20-minute running-time periods followed by one 15-minute stop-time period.

Most of the recreational and beer leagues I have played in follow a similar model with slight variations.

There are obviously no media timeouts in the beer leagues. Nobody wants to watch the product we’re putting out there.

Hell, were lucky to get even a handful of fans in the barn.

We also don’t get the privilege of having the ice resurfaced between periods.

With all of that in account, beer league hockey games usually last around an hour to an hour and a half. Periods can vary from 20 to 30 minutes.

Speaking of beer league hockey, are you looking for your local beer league options?

How Long Are College Hockey Periods?

College hockey games are formatted just like NHL games.

Specifically, NCAA Division I games have periods of 20 minutes each with stop-time and commercial timeouts – just like the NHL.

Like nearly all hockey leagues, there are three periods making the total regulation playing time 60 minutes.

This model is consistent for both men’s and women’s college hockey in the United States.

How About High School And Youth Hockey Leagues?

When it comes to high school hockey and youth hockey leagues, we refer back to the answer to the original question ‘how long is a period in hockey?’

It depends.

Here in the US, high school hockey period lengths vary by state and the specific rules of the high school athletic associations governing the sport.

However, it’s common for high school hockey games to have three periods, each lasting 15 minutes stop-time.

Youth league rules have a much higher degree of flexibility since they’re dealing with kids. Hockey periods can range from 5-15 minutes and are usually running time periods.

How Long Is Overtime In Hockey?

Again, it depends on which league you are referring to.

Some leagues, like my beer league, doesn’t have overtime at all. If the game is tied after three periods, we go right to a shootout to decide the winner. This is mostly to save time to keep other games on schedule.

What Is Overtime In Hockey?

If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, an overtime period is sometimes used to determine the winner. The length of overtime varies on the type of league, level of play, and time of the season (playoffs or regular season).

In the NHL, during the regular season, games that are tied at the end of regulation will go to a five-minute sudden death overtime period. During this overtime period each team skates three players at a time for a 3×3 model.

If neither team scores during overtime, the game is decided in a shootout.

In the NHL, during the playoffs, the overtime periods are formatted to a 20 minute sudden-death model with five skaters per side which is the traditional NHL overtime model.

What About Timeouts?

Timeouts are allowed in many hockey leagues ranging from youth leagues to the NHL.

While these timeouts are limited and short, they still have an impact on how long a period in hockey lasts.

In the NHL, each team is allowed one 60 second time-out per game. Time-outs can only be taken during a normal stoppage of play.

If you want the nitty-gritty details, here are other NHL timeout rules you may not know about:

  • NHL teams can use time-outs to warm up their goalkeepers, but no more than four pucks are allowed
  • TV timeouts are about two minutes long and occur three times per period, after the 6, 10, and 14 minute marks of the period
  • Commercial time-outs are taken after 4-minute intervals at the first stoppages of play after the 14:00, 10:00, and 6:00 marks in each period

Timeouts in other leagues vary by the rules of the league.

How Long Is A Period In Hockey Conclusion

Hockey is the best game in the world.

Unlike sports like baseball, where game time stands still, hockey provides endless action and high-level entertainment.

You won’t even care how long periods take since you’ll be caught up in the action.

Image credit to OES Scoreboards. If you need one, they make great ones.