How Long Is Overtime Intermission In Playoff Hockey? [Answered!]

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The most recent NHL season is now over, and although the Stanley Cup has been crowned, the regular season is not quite done yet. In fact, there are still several series to be decided, including the playoffs. One thing that you may have noticed is that there are a lot of overtime periods in the games, stretching the typical three-or-four-minute mark into an eight-minute allotment. That’s a lot of hockey, and a lot of time with no set break between shifts. So how long is overtime in the NHL, and how much rest does the player have in between shifts?

The NHL Overtime Rule Is Very Different

The standard NHL rule regarding time of game is 95 minutes. This means that after each goal, the teams have a chance to regroup, deactivate the goalie, and prepare for the next period. In the event of a tie game, sudden death overtime ensues, meaning that the first team to score wins. You will note that this rule does not cover overtimes in the playoffs, where the teams do not change ends and the game can go to sudden death. However, in the regular season, once the game has gone to overtime, the rules change to be more like the playoffs. The game continues with just two players on each team, and a 20-minute timer. Here is how the NHL overtime rulebook describes overtime play:

Four Three-Minute Overtimes

“If the game is going to extra time, and if the teams have not changed ends, there shall be four three-minute breaks between shifts. A change in ends will then be permitted. However, a coach’s challenge may still be entered at this stage.”

As we’ve established, once the game goes to overtime, there are no more changes of ends. Each team just keeps playing and switching when the other team scores. This leads to a lot of ties in the NHL, which then lead to the dreaded standings tiebreaker. In the event of a tie in the standings, the teams will split the net income from the last season, with the winner of the draft lottery getting the first pick in the upcoming draft (and the other teams picking in reverse order of standings). So if you’re tied for last place, the only way to avoid playing in the NHL winter sports festival is to win the lottery and draft the Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Let’s take a quick look at how the four three-minute breaks in NHL hockey work:

How Often Do Games Go To Overtime?

Over 22.2% of the games in the 2017-18 NHL season went to overtime. In other words, there was one overtime sequence for every four games. That’s a lot of hockey. Keep that statistic in mind the next time you’re watching a hockey game and notice that the third period has turned into a kind of hybrid overtime period, with a break in between periods, but with players still on the ice and a 20-minute clock running. While most of the action is taking place in the first three minutes of the overtime period, the fourth minute is often a frantic flurry of activity, with both teams desperately trying to score before the end of the 20 minutes.

In the regular season, you’ll notice that there is one overtime period per game, with no breaks between the four three-minute sequences. However, in the playoffs, once the game goes to overtime, there are no more changes of ends. Each team just keeps playing and switching when the other team scores. This leads to a lot of ties in the NHL, which then lead to the dreaded standings tiebreaker. In the event of a tie in the standings, the teams will split the net income from the last season, with the winner of the draft lottery getting the first pick in the upcoming draft (and the other teams picking in reverse order of standings). So if you’re tied for last place, the only way to avoid playing in the NHL winter sports festival is to win the lottery and draft the Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

More Than Three-Quarters Of NHL Playoff Games Go To Overtime

The most recent NHL season is now over, and although the Stanley Cup has been crowned, the regular season is not quite done yet. In fact, there are still several series to be decided, including the playoffs. One thing that you may have noticed is that there are a lot of overtime periods in the games, stretching the typical three-or-four-minute mark into an eight-minute allotment. That’s a lot of hockey, and a lot of time with no set break between shifts. So how long is overtime in the NHL, and how much rest does the player have in between shifts?

The answer is slightly complicated. If you take a look at the standings, you’ll see that over 29.1% of the games went to overtime last season. In other words, there was one overtime period every three and a half games. While most of the action is taking place in the first three minutes of the period, the fourth minute is often a frantic flurry of activity, with both teams desperately trying to score before the end of the 20 minutes.

In the regular season, there are four three-minute breaks per game. That’s it. Once the game goes to overtime, there are no more changes of ends, and each team just keeps playing and switching when the other team scores. This leads to a lot of ties in the NHL, which then lead to the dreaded standings tiebreaker. In the event of a tie in the standings, the teams will split the net income from the last season, with the winner of the draft lottery getting the first pick in the upcoming draft (and the other teams picking in reverse order of standings). So if you’re tied for last place, the only way to avoid playing in the NHL winter sports festival is to win the lottery and draft the Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Let’s take a quick look at how the four three-minute breaks in NHL hockey work:

How Does Overtime Benefit The Players?

The answer is that it benefits the players in a number of ways. First, the game is often decided by a flurry of activity in the final minute, so the players are in for a long break anyway. Second, it’s harder for coaches to make dumb substitutions when they have to give their players a break, so they’re often forced to use the same line combinations and strategies throughout the game, leading to higher-quality hockey. Third, having multiple overtimes means that some of the players are getting rest during the season, so their bodies are conditioned for the playoffs, where they enjoy a longer break. Finally, having multiple overtimes means that the games usually go late into the night, which is when the players are normally at their best.

Do The Refs Enjoy Overtime?

It’s a common misconception that the officials don’t like overtime. Far from it. While they don’t like having to work extra hard to keep track of the game, the referees love it because it means that they get to work extra hard, as well. In fact, after each overtime period, the referees will usually form a prayer circle and give thanks to the hockey gods for bestowing them with yet another overtime period.

What’s more is that once the game goes to a fourth overtime period, the officials almost always work together as a unit to ensure that the momentum doesn’t die down and the game continues into a fifth overtime, etc. So while the players are laying on the ice and getting some much-needed rest, the officials are working hard to keep the action interesting for the audience by being creative and making the right calls. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

What About The Fans?

While the players are undoubtedly the focus of most people’s attention when it comes to watching a hockey game, the fans can play a crucial role as well. First, they can keep the whistle of the fans engaged during the game is important to ensure that the pace is quick and the action is interesting, especially in the third period when the game starts to wind down and it’s getting harder and harder to keep the interest of the crowd. Second, having more time means that the teams have more time to play with and more chances to make plays, so everyone wins when the action is extended. Third, in the event of a tie game in the standings, having multiple overtime periods means that the fans get to see some great hockey, leading to more interest in the sport, and potentially more sponsorship opportunities for the team.

So while the players are getting a well-deserved break after a hard season, the crowds are getting a great show. If the NHL is going to continue to grow its audience, they need to find a way to keep the interest of the fans through multiple overtimes, which is something that the fans seem to love. Especially if the games start late into the night, which is when the teams are normally at their best anyway.

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