What Is Otl In Hockey? Discover Everything You Need To Know

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For any hockey enthusiast, it’s essential to be knowledgeable about the different rules and terminologies involved in the game. One of these terms is OTL – something that every hockey lover should have some level of understanding about.

If you’re one of those who want to know more about OTL in hockey, then you’ve come to the right place. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on what OTL stands for, how it works, and its significance in a game of hockey.

We’ll delve into everything you need to know regarding this term so that by the end of this article, you’ll be able to impress your friends with your knowledge of this vital aspect of hockey games.

“A thorough knowledge of terminology is essential to communicate effectively within the world of hockey.” -Unknown

We’ll start from the basics of understanding what exactly an OTL point is, followed by how it plays out in actual games. As we progress, we will touch upon the reasons why OTL has become such a crucial factor in modern-day hockey games.

So read on, get comfortable, and discover all there is to know about OTL in hockey!

Understanding Otl In Hockey

Hockey is one of the most exciting and popular sports in North America. It features fast-paced action, dynamic players, and physicality that draws huge crowds. One term that often comes up in hockey games and discussions is OTL or overtime loss. But what does it mean? This article will explain everything you need to know about OTL in hockey.

What Is Otl in Hockey?

An overtime loss (OTL) is a game outcome in which a team loses during sudden death overtime after regulation time has ended in a tie. This means that both teams score an equal number of goals by the end of the third period, forcing a 5-minute sudden-death overtime period with fewer players on the ice for each team. If no one scores during this period, a shootout occurs, where each team selects three shooters to shoot against the opposing team’s goalie. If there is still a draw after all three shooters from each team have taken their turn, they continue doing so until the tie breaks resulting in either a win, loss, or OTL for each team.

In NHL scoring, regular-time wins earn two points. OTL gives the losing team one point for its effort despite losing. Thus, while the winning team earns two points, the losing team gets only a single point. These additional points are included in determining the ranking order of teams in playoff positions as well we tracking performance across different seasons. Much like soccer penalties and basketball free throws, OTL holds special importance in hockey stats and stands as part of the rich history of this sport.

How Does Otl Differ from Other Game Outcomes?

The primary difference between OTL and other game outcomes is precisely that – the result occurs during the overtime period versus the regular playing time. As previously mentioned, regular-time games that do not end in a tie result in one team winning and receiving two points, while the losing team gets none. Similarly, if a game goes into overtime and one team scores during this period, the winning team will earn two points for their victory, while the loser receives only a single point.

Another difference to note is on paper; an OTL doesn’t look terrible compared to a loss when considering playoffs positions or season records. For instance, while many losses can push teams out of the playoff picture, several top-tier teams have had multiple OTLs throughout the season and still come ahead of less lucky rivals based on total points earned. Despite all these differences and similarities, as far as pure competition results are concerned, a win remains vastly superior than either outcome put together shared in an evenly-matched game.

Why Is Otl Important in Hockey?

OTL is important in hockey because it further emphasizes the importance and significance of every match played. It pays attention to those who keep it tight even after the time limits have been reached, and even when there’s no clear winner by then. The effect timeless links of stats, trivia, goals and achievements across different seasons make OTL-rich sports like NHL eerily captivating like an ongoing memory lane where you get to realize how your favorite legends claimed victories and died trying in all kinds of scenarios.

“An overtime game evokes elevated anxiety levels, both inside the arena and beyond, fans rooting vociferously for their respective teams.” -Mike Vogel

In short, OTL illustrates the thrilling drama of having to sort boundary cases which occur often enough but remain insufficiently common to count them similarly with other outcomes, increasing incentives to play at full throttle till the final buzzer sounds and forces extra periods and ultimately pointing towards respectful endurance potential.

While OTL may seem like just another game outcome in hockey, it has significant implications for team rankings and playoff positions performance tracking, to mention a few fields that depend hugely on collecting necessary data from each game played across different seasons. Understanding it means you get to have more closure after watching a tie that feels unjust considering the players’ skillsets.

OTL vs. OT vs. SO: What’s the Difference?

In hockey, there are three types of game-winners that might appear on a score sheet. These are overtime losses (OTL), overtimes (OT) and shootouts (SO). While they all contribute to determining the final result of a match, their different meanings could sometimes lead to confusion among fans and players alike.

OTL Explained

An overtime loss or OTL occurs when one team gets defeated by the opponent during overtime play. Overtime play happens only in a regular-season game if both teams end up tied at the conclusion of regulation time. An NHL playoff game won’t have an OTL since any sudden-death goal will determine which team advances to the next round.

If a team loses an overtime game, it receives one point while the winner claims two points. However, not every losing team earns an OTL because this designation applies specifically to those who lose in overtime. If a losing side falls short in regulation time or the shootout phase, then it won’t get credited with an OTL.

“If You Lose In Regulation At Least Start A Fight…”; Terry Murrin

OT Explained

The term overtime or OT indicates an extra five-minute period in a regular-season hockey game played after the third period ends and no team emerges as the victor. The objective is for one team to score first within the additional playing time frame to win; otherwise, the game goes into successive OTs until one team finally scores.

All OT games feature four-on-four play, meaning each team has reduced its roster by one skater. Reducing the number of players increases scoring chances considerably, making OT periods more fast-paced and exciting than regular gameplay. Similar to an OTL, a team that wins in overtime receives two points while the losing opponent bags one point.

“The joy of sudden death is the field of battle upon which true hockey players thrive.” – Bruce McNall

When Is Otl Used in Hockey?

Regular Season

In hockey, OTL stands for “overtime loss” and it is used to indicate when a team loses a game in overtime during the regular season but still gets one point due to having forced the game into overtime. Essentially, if two teams are tied after three periods of regulation play, they will go into an extra period of play where the first team to score wins the game. If neither team scores, the game ends in a tie, unless it is a playoff game.

During the regular season, if a team manages to force the game into overtime and lose, they get one point instead of zero, which goes towards their overall points total in the league table. This was introduced to incentivize attacking play in the last few minutes of games that were heading towards a tie.

“I like the idea that both teams go home with something. It encourages you to go for it at the end of regulation because there are circumstances that definitely call for a tie — like back-to-back games and travel situations.” -Former NHL player Martin St. Louis


In contrast to the regular season, in playoffs both teams play until a winner has been decided, whether that’s in regulation time, overtime, or multiple overtimes. Therefore, OTL isn’t used in the same way as in the regular season. Instead, winning teams are awarded two points while losing teams receive none, regardless of how close the game was.

During the playoffs, every single game matters so much more than in the regular season because ultimately only sixteen out of thirty-one teams qualify. Consequently, coaches tend to be extremely cautious and choose their strategies carefully before going into each match. One minor mistake can lead to the end of a team’s season, so there is very little room for error.

“In playoff hockey, momentum shifts are more emotional than they are technical or strategic.” -Former NHL player Eddie Olczyk

International Play

In international ice hockey competitions such as the World Championships and Olympic Games, OTL is used in much the same way as it is during the regular season. Just like in the NHL, teams who lose in overtime receive one point out of two, while winning teams get the full two points. However, this all depends on the specific tournament rules which can change from year-to-year.

Unlike in the NHL, not all tournaments have a sudden death overtime format. In some cases, a ten-minute overtime period will occur with each team having five skaters plus their goalie, and if neither team has scored by the end of that time, then a shootout takes place.

“I think we got a good group of guys here and it’s going to take everyone playing together and sticking to our game plan. We’ll see what happens but I’m excited about the opportunity.” -Olympic gold medalist Sidney Crosby

Elimination Games

Elimination games are high-pressure scenarios where both teams know that the loser is going home. Strategies and tactics may differ from normal due to the different stakes involved in these matches.

OTL doesn’t come into play in elimination games since there cannot be ties – someone has to win. If the game goes into overtime, the first team to score wins, regardless of how many shots either team had or how the game went up until that point. The pressure of an elimination game coupled with the culmination of the fight throughout a series makes overtime particularly tense and exciting for both players and fans.

“This is why we do what we do. This is why you play; this is why you compete – it’s for moments like these.” -Former NHL goaltender Martin Brodeur

How Does Otl Affect Team Standings?

The NHL, or National Hockey League, uses a point system to rank teams throughout the regular season. The three possible outcomes for a game are a win (worth two points), a loss (worth zero points), or an overtime or shootout loss (referred to as OTL or SOL, worth one point). While it may seem insignificant, these OTL points can have a significant impact on team standings and playoff seeding.

Point System

To understand the significance of OTL in hockey, it’s important to first understand the league’s overall point system. As previously mentioned, a regulation win is worth two points, while a regulation loss is worth zero points. An overtime or shootout win is also worth two points, but an overtime or shootout loss earns a team one point.

The importance of earning at least one point for an overtime or shootout loss cannot be overstated. In a league where win percentages are often separated by mere fractions of points, every point counts towards making the playoffs or advancing further in them. Furthermore, overtime games are notoriously unpredictable, with even strong teams being susceptible to upsets. By awarding points for a tie game that goes into overtime, the NHL ensures that both teams receive something for their efforts, regardless of who ultimately wins.


In addition to affecting overall rankings and points within the standings, OTLs can also play a crucial role in breaking ties between teams with equal point totals. During the playoffs, if two or more teams have an equal amount of points, their ranking is determined by a series of tiebreakers.

The first tiebreaker used is the number of games won during regulation time or overtime – essentially, how many times they’ve emerged triumphant before going into a shootout. This means that teams with more wins in regulation are usually ranked higher than those with fewer, regardless of their OTLs.

If two or more teams still have an equal number of points and wins after this tiebreaker has been applied, the next criteria used is head-to-head record. If one team has won more games against the other during the season, they will be ranked ahead of them in the standings. However, if both teams have beaten each other equally as often, the next tiebreakers include goal differential, goals scored, and a variety of other secondary metrics – including overall win percentage, which factors in OTLs to some extent.

Impact on Playoff Seeding

Because of these tiebreaking procedures, having more OTL points can potentially help a team receive a better seeding in the playoffs. For instance, imagine a scenario in which two teams within the same division finish the regular season with the same number of points. One of these teams had 40 wins by regulation or overtime, while the other only had 38 – but the latter team made up for it by earning eight additional OTL points throughout the season. In this case, assuming neither team has beaten the other more frequently than not, the second team would be considered higher seeded thanks to its proficiency in earning OTL points.

All of this underscores just how important every point earned can be over the course of a long NHL season. Even though OTL points may seem minor compared to full-fledged victories, they can make all the difference when it comes to breaking ties and securing a place in the playoffs.

Historical Examples

“Counting overtime losses was done so that it wouldn’t discourage exciting hockey outside of regulation time.” -Greg Wyshynski

The inclusion of OTL points in the NHL’s point system has been a source of controversy since it was first introduced. Some fans argue that OTL points overvalue mediocrity and leave too much to chance, while others appreciate how they reward teams for fighting through difficult games even if they ultimately don’t win them.

One notable example of how OTL points can significantly impact team standings occurred during the 2013-14 NHL season. The Columbus Blue Jackets finished with a record of 43-32-7 – good enough for 93 total points and the final playoff spot in their conference. However, another team (the Toronto Maple Leafs) also had 93 points by the end of the season…but only accrued two additional points from OTLs. Columbus, on the other hand, captured an impressive 15 OTL points throughout the regular season, giving them the edge despite having fewer regulation wins overall.

As this example shows, OTL points can be crucial when it comes to determining which teams make the playoffs, and which are left out in the cold. In some cases, a single OTL point earned weeks or months earlier in the season can end up representing the difference between success and failure at the very end.

Notable OTL Records and Stats in Hockey

Hockey is one of the most exciting sports played globally due to its quick pace, intensity and intricacies. One aspect that seems to be popping up on NHL scoreboards more frequently recently is the “OTL” column. While hockey fans are used to seeing W (win), L (loss) and T (tie) columns, the OTL has ensued some confusion within the sport.

Most OTLs in a Season

In 2009-2010, Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames set an NHL record for most OT losses by a goaltender in a season with eleven. In terms of team records, the Philadelphia Flyers took over this special category in their history as they lost 14 games after regulation in 2017-18 season which is the highest number of OTL recorded by any team since the league started recording it.

“It’s frustrating,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. “You’ve got to find ways to win those games.”

This statistic ties into the changing nature of the game in recent years. With teams playing closer matches more often, and an emphasis placed on reaching overtime, OTL numbers have surged. Teams aren’t satisfied taking one point anymore. Instead, they’re pushing hard for two, revealing just how much winning means to each franchise.

Most OTLs in Career

A few players have cracked double digits in career OT losses, though none more than Curtis Joseph who had 60 such defeats during his lengthy career. If someone was looking at Overtime Losses separately from Wins or Losses then Patrick Roy would hold the all-time record with 131 combined wins and loss after regulation. The longer careers tend to provide an advantage here but it’s a sign of the different pressures placed on goalies for achieving that split second victory.

Teams with Most OTLs in a Season

The NHL team with the most accumulated overtime losses (OTL) over all seasons, as well as the highest number of losses after regulation time(year-wise), is the Buffalo Sabres with 338 and 17 in 2013-14 season respectively. This figure doesn’t necessarily mean anything negative about the team as they have also won several games during those same spans.Meanwhile, Detroit Red Wings experienced similar bad luck when it came to extra time matches from 2009-11. During this stretch Detroit lost 20 matchups that went beyond three periods; frustratingly enough eight losses occurred only due to shootouts another league term used side-by-side with an OT loss and again adding to overall confusion about what a OTL means.

“You want those two points,” said Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, obviously frustrated by his team’s results.That would make playing against them even more difficult.”

In essence, thanks to the current point-sharing system, which sees winners trade places whenever teams can’t be separated, one more column now exists for the NHL scoreboard keepers – the OTL column. Though these numbers might seem insignificant, this category neatly illustrates how every shot, save or pass has the potential to impact the game’s outcome, long after regulation ends. As players continue pushing themselves harder than ever before, soaring above once-thought limits, we should expect OT circumstances to come up more often!

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a game decided when there is an OTL?

When there is an OTL, the game is decided by a shootout. Each team gets three shots, and the team with the most goals at the end of the shootout wins the game.

When did the NHL start recording OTL as a statistic?

The NHL started recording OTL as a statistic in the 1999-2000 season. This was done to keep track of games that ended in a tie after regulation time, but were decided in overtime or a shootout.

How does having OTL affect a team’s standings in the NHL?

Having OTL affects a team’s standings in the NHL by awarding them one point. This point is added to their overall point total, which determines their rank in the division, conference, and league.

Can a player receive a point for an OTL?

Yes, a player can receive a point for an OTL in the NHL. This point is awarded to players who score a goal or assist on a goal during the game, regardless of whether or not their team wins or loses in overtime.

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