How Does Overtime Work In The NHL?

If you are a big hockey fan you are likely aware the rules regarding overtime have changed several times over the years. These constant rule changes can get a bit confusing and often leave fans how overtime in the NHL works in general.

Luckily this article is on hand to break down everything you need to know about overtime in hockey.

We’ll start our article by breaking down the rules of overtime in the regular season as well as playoffs. And then we’ll finish off by breaking down all the different rule changes that have occurred over the years.

Regular Season Over Time Rules In The NHL

If you watched NHL hockey before 2005 five you may remember when NHL teams could tie games. This format has been replaced by the much more exciting alternative of shootouts.

When two teams are tied at the end of three periods they will take a short intermission and then begin playing overtime.

In the regular season, overtime is going to be played with three players on the ice for each team. The overtime period in a regular-season game is only five minutes.

These overtime periods are sudden death, meaning that if any team scores the game is immediately over. Since there are only three players on the ice for either team scoring on these three on three is incredibly likely.

Purpose Of Regular Season Overtime Rules

Now that you understand regular-season NHL overtime rules let’s find out why these rule changes were made.

First, off the NHL rid themselves of the tie in hockey in order to make the game more exciting. After all, if you can find a quick exciting way to finish the game then why not do it?

This is why shootouts were included in the game as fans would be able to watch an exciting conclusion to the game without having to settle for a tie.

Though after many games ending in shootouts the NHL started looking for ways to make the endings less gimmicky. Though shootouts are one way to end a game you do not want the majority of tie games to end based on a shootout.

After all most games should be determined by the better hockey team not the better team in a shootout. In order to curb this, the NHL made the change to make NHL regular-season overtime 3 v 3.

The results of this change went exactly how the NHL expected. With 4 on 4 overtime, roughly 60 per cent of games went to a shootout. The year after introducing the three on three overtime rule the NHL found only thirty-three per cent of games needed to go to a shootout.

These rule changes were able to satisfy all overtime issues the NHL was facing. Teams will be able to consistently conclude games in an exciting fashion. While still only reserving the shootout for few games in which teams are unable to break their tie.

Playoff Overtime Rules In The NHL

When it comes to overtime in the NHL playoffs the rules are completely different. The first thing you need to know is that there is no reduction of players on the ice and there is no shootout.

In the NHL playoffs, teams will continue to play five on five hockey. This five on five hockey will be played in twenty-minute periods.

This means instead of playing a five minute overtime period like the regular season these players will continue playing twenty-minute periods like a regular game.

The only thing that can end these overtime games is a winning goal. There is no time in which an NHL playoff game can end in a tie. The players will simply continue to play twenty-minute periods until a winner is determined.

This results in some NHL playoff games continuing on for several more periods. The longest game of all time took 116 minutes and thirty seconds. Only three and a half minutes from the length of two full regulation time games. This game ended 1-0.

Purpose Of Overtime Playoff Rules?

After seeing how well the regular season rules seem to be at concluding a winner of a hockey game you may be wondering why these rules are so different from the playoffs.

The answer to this question is simply that playoff hockey games should only be won by playing five on five hockey. Though three on threes and shootouts are great ways to end a regular-season game they aren’t a true test of the better hockey team.

The goal at the end of each season is for the NHL to declare the best hockey team in the league. The NHL and likely the majority of fans believe that the best way to do this is to only play five on five hockey.

Despite the long overtimes and late nights for fans the NHL has never budged on their stance that this is the best method.

History Of Overtime Rule Changes

Now that you have learned everything you need to know regarding how overtime works in the NHL let’s go through how these rules have changed over the years.

From 1942 to 1983 the NHL simply concluded games that were tied after three periods as a time game. The teams were simply awarded one point for a tie as opposed to the two they would receive as a win.

In 1983 the NHL introduced an overtime period of five minutes after the three periods were completed. This five minute overtime featured five on five hockey with any goal scored ending the game.

If no one scored in the five minutes the game would be considered a tie and both teams would get one point. At this point in time if a team lost in overtime they did not earn any points in the standings.

It wasn’t until 1995 that the rules were changed to award a team a single point for losing in overtime. Additionally in the 1998 the NHL followed suit of the AHL and began to play overtime with four on four hockey.

And then in the year, 2005 shootouts were added to NHL hockey. This effectively got rid of the tie in hockey and set the precedent that all NHL hockey games will end with one of the teams going home a winner.

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