It’s obvious why most sports would have an even number of periods of play. It keeps everything fair as each team has the same amount of time on each end.

So why in Ice Hockey are there 3 periods? It seems to create an opportunity of an unfair advantage for one team on purpose.

  • I understand where you are coming from, but how does playing on one end as opposed to playing on another end create a/n dis/advantage? Ice hockey isn't usually played in open venues. Just would like insight on that.
    – user527
    Jul 10, 2014 at 11:48
  • @edmastermind29 : true but if there were no differences, why bother to change ends at all?
    – Orge
    Jul 10, 2014 at 12:50
  • 1
    Sure, good question. Also, where players from both teams come in/out for line changes are usually on one side of the rink, so I can see strategy playing a factor there.
    – user527
    Jul 10, 2014 at 13:17
  • @edmastermind29 Conceivably, the home team could install a slightly wider goal on the end that they only have to defend one out of three times. Aug 3, 2014 at 3:16
  • Teams switch sides but the bench remains on the same spot
    – Huangism
    Dec 11, 2014 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


Before 1910, they used to play 2 halves of 30 minutes each. But at the end of each half, the ice was so rutted and covered with snow that it slowed the game way down. So they changed it to 3 periods of 20 minutes each to give them a chance to clean the ice one more time.

It also gave the players more time to rest. They get two 18 minute (as of 2013) intermissions between the periods to rest as opposed to American Football and Basketball, where the really only get one 12 minute halftime to rest because the time between the quarters is only 2 minutes.

As to why they kept it at 3 periods and not change it to 4 quarters? It was probably because 3 periods just seemed to work for them after they changed the rule so they kept it that way.

Also, the only time a team is at a disadvantage is during the 2nd period when they have to do a long change. But because the rinks are the same on both ends, both teams have this disadvantage.

  • Sorry, I didn't understand the long change. When does it precisely happen? At the beginning of the 2nd period or in the middle of it? How is it a disadvantage for both teams rather than no disadvantage at all? Jul 15, 2014 at 18:41
  • 4
    It is a disadvantage to both teams during the entire 2nd period. Because both teams goal is further away from their bench, it takes both teams longer to do a line change or change tired players out for fresh ones. This in tern gives the other team more time and opportunities to score. Basically, both teams have to skate further in order to defend their own goal.
    – An Dorfer
    Jul 21, 2014 at 12:21
  • Has wind ever been a factor? Or the location of the spectators? In modern professional hockey neither of these are an issue, but I'm really surprised that orientation-dependent issues like this weren't a problem in the past.
    – mjs
    May 3, 2015 at 18:54
  • @mjs While I have no photographic evidence of this before the 20's, games for the NHL were all in indoor arenas, as were the PCHL, and I'd wager the NHA as well. Basically wind would have only been an issue during the games infancy, and that would depend on how many games were played outdoors at the time. Mar 21, 2017 at 17:35

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