In the National Hockey League as well as other professional hockey leagues, a typical hockey game lasts for three periods of 20 minutes each. The clock is stopped during every stoppage in play, resulting in a total of 60 minutes of regulation playing time. However, if the score is tied at the end of this regulation time, hockey rules dictate that overtime may be used to determine which team is victorious.
Overtime is the extra time added to a tied game following the end of regulation time. In the regular season of the NHL, an overtime period lasts for five minutes. During overtime, teams play with four skaters each, barring penalties, as opposed to the usual five skaters during regulation time.
With fewer skaters on the ice, there is more room to maneuver and the likelihood of a goal is increased. If a goal is scored, the game ends immediately. The team that scored the goal has won the hockey game. This is called “sudden death” overtime.
If the score is still tied at the end of the overtime period, a shootout is used to determine the winner. Initially, each team chooses three shooters to represent the team. The home team chooses which team shoots first, then the teams alternate as shooters try to score one-on-one against the opposing goaltender.
If the score is still tied after all six shooters have made their attempts, the shootout continues with one shooter per team per round. The teams must select new shooters for each round. The first shooter to score when the opposing shooter fails wins the game for his team.
Overtime in the NHL playoffs is different. During the playoffs the overtime period lasts for twenty minutes, the teams play five-on-five, and there is no shootout. If the score is tied after the end of the first playoff overtime period, another overtime period is played. This continues until a goal is scored, ending the game.
The longest overtime in NHL history took place during a 1936 game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons. It lasted for five complete overtime periods and nearly all of the sixth. Mud Bruneteau of the Red Wings slid the puck past Maroons’ goaltender with only three and a half minutes left in the sixth overtime period. If they had completed that period, the teams would have played the equivalent of three consecutive games.
Perhaps the most memorable NHL overtime goal was scored on May 10, 1970, when Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins scored against the St. Louis Blues. As he was in the process of shooting the puck, Orr was tripped and catapulted into the air. Orrs shot found the back of the net, he began his celebration in mid-air, and the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup as National Hockey League champions.
Outside of the NHL, the most famous hockey overtime goal took place during the final men’s hockey game of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. With the gold medal on the line, Canada and the U.S. played to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation time. At 7:40 mark of the first overtime period, Canadian superstar Sidney Crosby snapped the puck past American goaltender Ryan Miller and claimed the gold medal for Canada, the host country.
Hockey overtime can be among the most exciting moments in sports, especially in playoff or championship games. Heroes have been created during overtime. The instant ecstasy or sudden defeat can be palpable, and the story is often told for years.