by Emmet Mahon
3ICE Penalty Shot.
With the proliferation of streaming services and existing broadcast channels, the need for new and unique programming has never been greater. It is not uncommon to readily view many minor league games from MLB, NBA, and the NHL. WNBA games can be found on non-traditional networks such as ION. From most NCAA sanctioned sports to backyard favorites like Cornhole,
if it piques your interest, you can find a platform that carries it. A fun and unique brand of hockey, in partnership with CBS Sports, has jumped into this vast universe, 3ICE. A three-on-three format like the NHL’s regular season overtime.
3ICE is the brainchild of Eddie Johnston Jr., the son of longtime Pittsburgh Penguins executive,
Eddie Johnston, who also serves as one of the league’s eight head coaches. With backgrounds
such as these, it is not surprising that the league has a heavy Pittsburgh influence. The championship trophy is the Patrick Cup (the Patty), named for 3ICE Commissioner and Penguins
legend, Craig Patrick, who also serves as a head coach. Other head coaches with Pittsburgh ties
include Larry Murphy, Joey Mullen, and John LeClair. One time fan favorite, Bryan Trottier, was
a head coach during season one. Players, Bobby Farnham and Chris Bourque, have logged time
with the Pens. Even CBS Sports broadcast team is familiar, play by play man, Steve Mears, and
color analyst, Bob Errey.
Team Murphy and former PSU goalie, Eamon McAdam.
The remaining coaches are NHL all time greats, Raymond Bourque, Guy Carbonneau, and Grant
Fuhr. The games are played each Wednesday, beginning in June in diverse locations like
Pittsburgh, Newark, NJ, and Clarksville, TN. The teams with the four highest point totals after
the six-week regular season square off in the championship tournament at Philadelphia’s Wells
Fargo Center on August 8th .
Each week’s tournament features four of the eight teams. Each game consists of two eight-
minute halves, with a running clock, stopping only for penalties and injuries. Uptempo music
pumps throughout the arena during play, befitting the game’s intensity. The winners of the first
two games receive one point. The two initial losers play in a consolation game worth one half of
a point. The first-round winners then face off for the bonus championship two points. Fan
engagement is a key component of the league’s mission with things like honorary kids captains
at each venue and fans' ability to vote for that week’s best goal.
The similarities between the NHL and 3ICE end with the format. As the league touts, its product
is “the best part of hockey." The running clock encourages constant motion and an emphasis on
offense. However, if you are expecting double digit scoring, prepare to be disappointed. These
players take defense very seriously and play it with pride. While you won’t see many bone
rattling checks, one will witness scrums along the boards and plenty of stick checks and taking
the body. One of the many unique wrinkles of 3ICE is that once the offensive zone is gained, the
red line becomes a back wall that prevents the attacking team from retreating and regrouping.
Offside is called as usual at the blue line.
3ICE has many innovative rules that keep the fans on the edge of their seats. There are no power
plays. When an infraction occurs, a penalty shot is awarded. Just not your parents’ penalty shot.
All six players remain on the ice. A shooter of the aggrieved team chosen by the head coach takes up the puck at center ice and heads toward the goalie. However, the other five offensive players remain on the ice stationed on the far blue line. Once the shooter reaches the near blue line, the trailing players follow in pursuit. If the shooter doesn’t score, play continues unabated. Icing the puck without a legitimate passing attempt also results in a penalty shot. This rule can allow a trailing team to quickly climb back into the game when attempts at the empty net go awry.
In the NHL, a puck into the netting results in a stoppage of play and a faceoff. In 3ICE, play continues. Speaking of faceoffs, they only occur at the start of each half. Offsides and “over and
back” bring about a turnover and the opposing team getting the puck. If a goalie freezes the puck, or when a goal is scored, he is given the ability to pass the puck to a teammate to facilitate resumption of play. In these occurrences, the opposing teams may not enter “the clear zone”, a
large semi-circular painted area in front of the net. The goalie can play the puck anywhere on the
ice. No trapezoids here. The most important rule: no offside coaches' challenges! If a contest is tied at the end of regulation, there is no overtime. Games are settled by individual rounds of shootouts. After each team has attempted a penalty shot, the team that has scored wins. If it is tied, rounds continue until the tie is broken.
Consolation Game, Team Bourque beats Team Mullen.
The 3ICE players are mostly made up of those with college, ECHL, AHL, and some NHL experience. One can envision as the sport grows, more familiar names will begin to populate the rosters. It is hardly unimaginable that women will be joining the ranks and becoming fan favorites. Though played in summer, the experience hardly feels out of place. The large amounts of young people in the stands, and fully engaged, offers the prospect of a family-friendly night out. Hockey fans that love the game no longer need wait for the fall for their fix. 3ICE is cool, its future is hot.
Notes: There is a weekly perk for the players, the Golden Helmet. The league’s leading scorer at the conclusion of the previous week’s action dons a helmet that is impossible to miss… There are a few players that may be familiar to readers: Patrick Mullen, son of Joey Mullen and a graduate of Upper St. Clair High School and Eamon McAdam, one time Penn State goalie.
Team Murphy is the night’s champions, Game two, Team LeClair beats Team Mullen.
defeating Team LeClair.