This professional 3-on-3 hockey league promises a show | You did see?

The name suggests, two teams compete three against three. The game takes place on an NHL-sized rink. Besides these two elements familiar to hockey fans, everything else is different.

First, the calendar is a series of nine weekly events. Every Saturday, the six teams that form the new circuit gather in an arena to play an eliminatory tournament. A 16-minute match, divided into two legs. The winning team advances to the next round until only one remains, which is a six-game amateur hockey schedule.

Some additional features? No penalty, but rather an automatic penalty shot with a player chosen at the coach’s discretion. In the event of a tie, the opponents proceed directly to the shootout. Goaltenders can touch the puck anywhere on the ice, and if it comes back into play after touching the backstop, the action continues.

The genesis

The idea began to germinate in the mind of EJ Johnston, a former television producer from Los Angeles, when he attended a rookie camp held simultaneously by the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Johnston was used to the Penguins facilities, being the son of former star goaltender Ed Johnston, who had a 23-year administrative career in Pittsburgh, both behind the bench and on the second floor.

At the end of the camp sessions, the players played a three-on-three match. There were a few fans in the arena and they were on the edge of their seatexplains Johnston.

The guys aren’t close to making the league and they put on quite a show. »

A quote from EJ Johnston, Founder and CEO of 3ICE

The business plan took a month to write, a few months to validate left and right, and a few more months to finance. Had it not been for the pandemic, the project would have taken three years to set up.


Photo: Unrivaled Group

We met the broadcasters and we settled it with a handshake from the first meeting, which is rare in televisioncontinues Johnston.

Who are the players?

There are no particularly well-known players in the inaugural crop, except for Ryan Malone, who has six seasons of more than 20 goals in the NHL, and who is not quite the prototype of the player that the league covets.

The qualities sought are rather speed, creativity and a high level of skill. It is not necessary to be strong, quality almost sine qua non to be successful at the highest level at five-on-five.

According to Johnston, a third of the players would have experience of the NHL, another third would be North Americans who rolled their bump in Europe and the last third would be made up of young people coming out of the junior or university ranks.

We wish we had plenty of Connor Shearyhe says.

Samson Mahbod has more of the desired profile. Small, with a very high game intelligence. The Montreal hockey player was never drafted into the NHL, but he had a brilliant career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, before moving all over the world. Last year he played in Slovakia.

I am very feverish. I wanted to be part of it. I am honored to inaugurate the first season. »

A quote from Samson Mahbod, 3ICE player

Samson Mahbod was treated to an hour-long sales pitch via Zoom. He then traveled to Las Vegas, where the selection camp was held last April.

All the players were impressed. The food, the amenities, it was super professionalhe says.

Samson Mahbod

Photo: Unrivaled Group/Jeff Bottari/3ICE

A total of 60 players attempted to earn one of 42 positions on one of six seven-man squads, excluding goalkeepers. The six star coaches, because they are, selected their players in turn as in a repechage. Mahbod was chosen by Guy Carbonneau. Of the six coaches, only John LeClair is not a Hall of Famer, as Grant Fuhr, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy and Bryan Trottier all have their plaques in Toronto.

It is certain that their great reputation is a factor, but they are there to do a real job as coach and general manager. They drafted their players, there will be real new schemes to imaginesays EJ Johnston.

A starting point

A new professional hockey adventure begins in Las Vegas this weekend. Over the course of nine weeks, eight matchdays and the grand final, the players will share $2.2 million, half of which will be distributed for the final alone. A player whose team goes all the way could pocket $160,000 for a summer of nine days of work.

That’s almost as much per minute as an NHL playersaid Johnson wryly.

The goal this year is to deliver a great on-site arena experience, and to make a great television product. And then, the organization thinks big: expansion in Europe, World Cup.

The passion they have, the money they put into it. Several KHL guys have called me because they’re interested. »

A quote from Samson Mahbod, 3ICE player

And even if 3ICE is a private company that has no game to play to bring its sport into the Olympic Games, its leaders are well aware of the wish of the new president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Luc Tardif, to make this idea a reality.

In my opinion, hockey really fits better than three-on-three basketball, because the size of the player is less important in hockey in this format.he says.

EJ Johnston also notes that the formula is already working as shown in overtime in the NHL, and that 3ICE’s proposal will be even more exciting, since the game will continue after a goal. Again, this will be a breakthrough into new territory.

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