Don’t expect to see defensive systems when 3ICE hits the ice this summer for the launch of North America’s new three-on-three professional hockey league.
That’s according to Hockey Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier and former NHL All-Star John Leclair who will be behind the bench of two of 3ICE’s six teams for the touring events.
“When you look at the three-on-three overtime hockey, especially when you go back a few years to when it was less about puck control and more run and gun, it was so exciting,” said Leclair, who scored 819 NHL points in 16 seasons. He expects that same excitement and open style to translate to 3ICE.
Bryan Trottier, a Hockey Hall of Fame member and Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, echoed Leclair in his shared belief that fans who attend one of nine events across North America will be treated to a fast paced, offense driven style of hockey.
“It will be thrilling,” he said. The concept is strong and the players are skilled; they get what it’s all about. There’s not a lot of aggressive or physical play, but there will be intensity, and it’s going to be entertaining. Fans recognize, because of the NHL, the thrill of three-on-three hockey, that’s what you’ll see with 3ICE.”
Each game will feature two, eight-minute halves with penalties resulting in a penalty shot. Goaltenders can also play the puck anywhere, eliminating the NHL’s trapezoid rule. As well, to encourage offensive play, the league will not allow players to retreat back over the red line after the puck has crossed the offensive blueline. It’s a rule similar to the NBA’s “over and back” restriction.
As Leclair, a five-time NHL All-Star stated, the game will lend itself to the modern player; one who is skilled, can skate, and is willing to be creative.
“I think the modern hockey player is much more equipped to play this three-on-three style,” he said. “The speed and skill is what we’re promoting and I think that’s what you find now in all of these guys.”
Aside from Leclair and Trottier, the benches of each 3ICE team will feature former NHL stars including Guy Carbonneau, Grant Fuhr, Joe Mullen, and Larry Murphy. The teams themselves, which are composed of six skaters and a goalie, are speckled with former NHL and AHL players, as well as recent college hockey players and European pros.
3ICE will include stops in Las Vegas, Denver, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Quebec City, London (Ontario), Hershey, and Grand Rapids. The playoffs and championship event will take place on August 20 back in Las Vegas with $2-million in prize money on the line.
While this is the first season of 3ICE, Leclair and Trottier expect that this offensively driven, skill-based version of the sport could continue to grow. Recently, that conversation included interest from the IOC and IIHF to add three-on-three hockey to the Olympics.
“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,” said Trottier.
“Once you see the excitement involved and the way the fans are going to react to the scoring and scoring chances, I think it’s something that could grow,” Leclair agreed.
3ICE is set to drop the puck for the first time June 18 in Las Vegas, Nevada.