Before the puck drops on Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, a new league will begin play with hopes of filling fans’ summertime void with its version of three-on-three hockey.
3ICE will debut at 3 p.m. Saturday at Orleans Arena with six games. The league will look to build off the three-on-three game that the NHL plays in overtime, with unique rules to help create a more fast-paced, offensive style of the sport.
“We had a great proof of concept with the NHL’s overtime session, and it was a huge hit. Fans love it,” 3ICE CEO E.J. Johnston said.
To put the league’s own spin on three-on-three hockey, Johnston was looking to create rules that helped improved the speed of the game For instance, if a puck hits the netting and lands back on the ice, play continues without a stoppage.
There are no coaches’ challenges or power plays; instead, any penalty goes to a penalty shot. And if a team takes the puck into its offensive zone, it can’t go back across to its defensive zone, similar to the NBA’s over-and-back rule.
“It makes for more offense,” Johnston said. “More hockey, less stoppages of play, more opportunities to be creative.”
Games will consist of two eight-minute halves and have a running clock. There is no overtime, with ties going straight to a one-round shootout until a winner is determined.
At each tour stop, there will be three opening-round games, followed by two semifinals and a championship game to determine the winner of that event.
There are six teams, each made up of six skaters and a goalie. Each team is coached and named after a Hockey Hall of Famer.
Former Edmonton Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr is one of the coaches and was drawn to the league for its offensive-oriented nature.
“In five-on-five, you can bog down the ice a little, but with three-on-three, you can’t bog it down at all,” Fuhr said. “The fun part of it is it’s going to be offensive because there is a lot of room out there.”
The league is comprised of players with NHL, international, junior league and NCAA Division I experience.
Patrick Mullen, who found out about the league from his father and coach, Joe Mullen, was one of 60 players who participated in the league’s training camp in April at Orleans Arena. He quickly realized he wasn’t in shape for the fast-paced style.
“I haven’t played in two seasons, and the biggest adjustment was getting back into shape,” Mullen said. “I tried to stay in a little bit of shape, but the first game in Las Vegas for the tryouts, it was surprising how out of shape I was.”
Johnston hopes the league’s “faster version of three-on-three” with shorter games can reach a wider audience.
“There’s not a lot of options out there for you in the summertime,” he said. “So we are scratching that itch for not just hockey fans but for sports fans and the entertainment seeker.”
Games will take place across North America for eight straight weeks. The league will conclude its season Aug. 20 at Orleans Arena, where the top four teams in the regular-season standings will play for The Patrick Cup Championship.
Contact Alex Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.