For ice hockey fans, the wait is finally over. The inaugural season of the exciting new 3-on-3 hockey league 3ICE is now underway, with six teams doing battle across nine rounds in different cities in North America. The victors, crowned on August 20th in the championship event, will be the lucky recipients of a $2 million cash prize.
There has been much chatter about the excitement and energy that these 3ICE ice hockey teams will be bringing to the rink this summer, which has organizers, participants and fans alike salivating over the prospect of what’s to come in the future. According to certain parties, that could include an expansion into the European market in the coming years.
What is 3ICE?
The brainchild of industry veterans Eddie and EJ Johnston, 3ICE is a breathless new form of the sport which will satiate the appetite of hockey fans in the post-season lull after the Stanley Cup is done and dusted but before the new league gets under way. It has been specifically designed to encourage dynamic, offensive play and should be a thrilling experience for spectators.
For instance, the 3-on-3 format is conducive to open and expansive tactics, while goaltenders are also allowed to play the puck anywhere to encourage roaming – unlike in the NHL. What’s more, players are not allowed to retreat over the red line once they have progressed the puck past the blue line, thus preventing the use of defensive stratagems and encouraging teams to attack all the time.
The fact that each of the 3ICE teams will be coached by an NHL Hall of Famer or retired star of the game only adds extra frisson to proceedings. On a whirlwind tour of North America, the sport will pass through Las Vegas, Denver, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Quebec City, London (Ontario), Hershey, and Grand Rapids, with the play-offs and final returning to Vegas in August.
The sky’s the limit
Even though 3ICE’s debut season is not yet complete, its organizers and participants are already looking ahead to how it could develop in future years. For example, CEO E L Johnston has already hinted at the possibility that the sport could branch out into the European market in the near future, given that the ice hockey scene on that continent is enjoying a purple patch of popularity at the moment.
He's not the only one who has such high hopes for 3ICE, either. “I think this concept is going to have legs, I think it’s going to create a whole new opportunity for a lot of players, not just in North America, but globally,” explained Bryan Trottier, a Hall of Fame member who won the Art Ross and Hart Trophy and is coaching one of the six teams this summer.
There have even been murmurings that the 3-on-3 format could infiltrate the Olympic Games, with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) both reportedly keen on the idea. This year saw two gold medals handed out in the discipline and that number could double to four if 3-on-3 becomes a fixtures at the next Games in Italy in 2026.
Even though the first 3ICE hockey season is not yet over, fans are already rubbing their hands of the globalization of the sport in future years.