“The best part of hockey,” 3ICE seeks to deliver an entertainment-fueled product

Picture this — you’re at a hockey game featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers with players like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The third period is winding down, the game is tied, and you whisper to the person next to you “I hope we’re gonna get to see some overtime.”

What’s not to love about overtime? 3-on-3 play is arguably the best thing in hockey right now — any game that has the extra frame is pretty much must-see-TV for fans. The teams’ coaches throw out their best players on the ice and the excitement commences. When a game heads to overtime, you are bound to see some highlight reel plays.

3ICE is a brand new summer hockey league that will kick off in the summer of 2021. It is strictly 3-on-3 play that CEO E.J. Johnston describes it as the most exciting way to play hockey.

“We’ve got all the best parts of hockey,” said Johnston. “It’s all the speed, dangles, creativity that fans want. It makes the rink that canvas that lets these players that are artists really show their stuff.”

Johnston partnered up with Hockey Hall of Famer, Craig Patrick, to create the new professional league which is totally independent from the NHL.

“[When it comes to creating the league] the wheels started turning legitimately about two and a half to three years ago,” said Johnston. “Going to the three-on-three camps of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, and watching the NHL overtime format. At first I felt that three-on-three was a gimmick but it did not take me long to be on board after watching a couple of games.”

In its first season, 3ICE will have eight teams, consisting of six skaters and one goalie with substitutes travelling with the teams in case of injury. The league will play mini tournaments in eight different cities over the summer. Games will be two eight-minute halves of running time, with a four minute intermission to clean the ice. Johnston says the thing that sets them most apart from traditional 3-on-3 hockey is that there will be no penalties — if a player commits an infraction, it will directly result in a penalty shot.

“Our product is going to be very snackable,” Johnston said. “We’re going to pack about seven games in a three and a half hour broadcast. It’s a great way to spend an evening out.”

3ICE has already confirmed that they have television broadcast deals with CBS Sports in the US, while in Canada their games will be broadcasted on TSN and RDS.

What hasn’t been confirmed is who will be playing in this league, as 3ICE has not secured any players yet. However, Johnston says that they do have some names in mind as comparables for the type of players they are aiming to attract as they have been talking to multiple agencies.

“He is an ex-NHLer, that no longer has a contract,” Johnston said. “I like to point to a guy like Conor Sheary. He’s a third liner playing 13-14 minutes a night but is the first guy over the boards when the game goes to overtime. [Our ideal player] has also played for three or five years in the NHL.”

Johnston also said that players nearing the end of their careers in the NHL but would still like to play once out of a contract like Jason Spezza and Corey Perry would also be great fits for 3ICE.

In terms of which eight cities will host the inaugural season of 3ICE, Johnston said that it will be up to the fans. Fan engagement will be a big part of the league, including voting on which cities will host, helping to design jerseys, and will even be able to weigh in on video reviews.

We genuinely want the fans to be a part of the process,” said Johnston. “We want them on the business side and the on-ice side. We’re trying to create what we call ‘the biggest locker-room in the world.’”

When it comes to which cities will be hosting these mini tournaments, Johnston mentioned four Canadian cities as potential candidates — those being Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and Quebec City. However, he said it will come down to wherever they garner the most interest from official votes that they will release to the fans sometime within the next two months.

Johnston said that the league has a lot of potential for expansion depending on how successful their first season goes.

“In our plans are things like expansion into Asia, Europe, the women’s game,” said Johnston. “We’d like to see our version of the Little League World Series where we’d have [intercontinental play].”

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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