When Does Hockey Go Into A Shootout? [Facts!]

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What kind of question is that? Of course hockey goes into shootouts. It’s one of the most exciting parts of the game when you realize that your team actually managed to score after all. And while we don’t need an excuse to celebrate when our team scores a goal (even if it’s just a regular shot that goes in for the simplest of rushes), we sometimes need some help understanding when the actual game is over. So here’s a brief guide to when hockey goes into a shootout:

Goalies Start Shooing

As the name would suggest, the idea is for the goalie to play the part of a sweeper, preventing the puck from going into the opposing net. Forwards typically take on the role of a slasher, looking to score as often as possible and make the other team pay for all those blocked shots. This could mean that a goalie might need to spend some time on their knees, since they’re mostly used to standing up and playing catch-up.

First Period

If the game goes for the full three periods, it is typically referred to as a “sudden-death overtime.” As the name implies, the first period is played at a frantic pace with little else happening. It’s not uncommon for fights to break out (and they usually involve two players from the same team), especially when rivalries are still fresh (think Boston vs. Toronto). Teams will often go into a physical and mental frenzy, trying to score as quickly as possible and win the period in some way. It’s not uncommon for teams to enter the first period tied at one, and leave it at none. It’s a total crap shoot – who knows if the game will end in a tie, or what the final score will be.

Both Goalies Goaltcking

This is a goaltending showdown – two goalies go head-to-head, with the winner determined by the most wins (or points) after three periods. The excitement and intensity is often higher in these games, as the stakes are higher and both teams are more desperate for a win. This variation of the famous “chicken game” is named after the fact that the goalies get their hands on the puck a lot, particularly in the first and third periods. It’s usually a one-goal game in the third period of these games, so both goalies have to play exceptionally well to keep the score close. These are the types of games that get a lot of people talking – and betting – on sportsbooks. And once the excitement of the game has waned, everyone has a chance to reflect on how well they played, and who deserves to win based on their performance.

Between Periods

If the game ended in a tie after three periods, we would continue to the extra frame – and this is where things start getting interesting. Between periods are literally a moment of ‘clean” hockey – there’s no slashing, no checking, nothing but the goalies stopping the puck. It’s kind of like a face-off, but with more strategy and less chance of getting hurt. This is where goalies get their reputation for being “cold” – the term comes from the fact that they don’t seem to get excited about giving the puck away, in contrast to how much they enjoy preventing other teams from scoring. This is also a chance for coaches to give some instructions to their goalies and get an idea of what they need to work on. Between periods are usually pretty tactical, with lots of back-and-forth, but nothing too serious.


Once the three periods are over, we start the shootout. This is when the goalie gloves come off, and each team has a chance to score as many goals as they can. The goalie who stops the most shots wins, and everyone gets a chance to celebrate regardless of whether or not your team won the game. It’s a great moment when your goalie stops all the shots in the shootout, giving you the win in what feels like an impromptu fashion. And then, of course, you get to celebrate with your teammates, raising that rare magical trophy above your heads – what else could you want in your first year as a professional goalie?

The great thing about hockey is that it can always be modified to suit the needs of the storyteller. After all, that’s what makes the game so great – anything can happen, and the only constant is that it will always change. We’ve covered the basics above – for a more detailed examination of when/how/why a hockey game goes into a shootout, check out this detailed guide by our good friends at One More Goal!

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