Hockey is on hiatus almost everywhere in North America, but in the Mont-Royal area of Montreal, many of the top men’s and women’s hockey players on the planet are playing in the three-on-three Living Sisu Hockey League.
On any given night at the Hockey Etcetera sports complex, NHLers including Jonathan Huberdeau, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Suzuki, Kris Letang, Anthony Mantha, and Jonathan Drouin, as well as dozens of others on the men’s side. On the women’s night, Olympic stars Marie-Philip Poulin and Melodie Daoust, and up and coming players like QMJHL netminder Eve Gascon are a few of the players highlighting the action.
“It’s a staple of summer for so many players, the summer league is important,” says netminder Zach Fucale, who plays in the league, and works with Living Sisu, the company now running the league.
Last season, Fucale appeared in four games, recording a 1-1-1 record for the NHL’s Washington Capitals. In those games he had a 1.75 GAA and .924 save percentage. Fucale also played 42 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Fucale sees the league as an opportunity to stay competitive and sharp in the off-season.
“It’s a chance to play against the best guys in the area, we’re all training to either earn a spot, or to keep our spot. It’s a small ice, three-on-three on that ice, it’s fast, it’s quick, it’s skilled, there are a lot of shots. It’s good for every single player there.”
While 3-on-3 hockey lends to wide-open, high-scoring contests, goaltenders, like Fucae also enjoy the challenge. Other netminders competing this year include Buffalo Sabres prospect Devon Levi, and AHLer Michael McNiven.
For the growing group of NHL players, and elite women, it has become an integral portion of summer training.
“There’s nowhere else where players can come together to, stay in shape, but have good competition during the summer,” said Fucale. “If it wasn’t for this league, they’d have to come up with some kind of skate or scrimmage, but the league makes it more fun, makes it more competitive, and it recruits the best players in the region.”
While the men’s league has been playing together for years, the addition of a women’s league is new. The popularity of women’s hockey in Montreal, including the announcement of a Premier Hockey Federation expansion team, made the new women’s 3-on-3 league logical growth for LSHL.
“We copy and pasted the men’s league to create a full-blown women’s league,” explained Fucale. “With all of the Olympians that are in town, USports players, and the women’s players identified as next-generation players by Hockey Quebec and Hockey Canada, it’s great competition.”
While many elite players train on quiet ice surfaces across the globe each summer, the members of LSHL are no secret to the community. Drawing crowds and giving back are another integral part of the weekly LSHL games.
“The rink was pretty much full on opening night,” said Fucale. “We charge $5 per entry and 100% goes to pancreatic cancer. Fans get to watch NHL stars and some of the top women in the world. It’s fun for them to come out, we get to play in front of fans, and the money goes to a good cause; it’s an all-around win.”
The Living Sisu Hockey League women play every Monday, while the men play every Tuesday from early July until late August.