An experimental three-on-three professional hockey league is set to debut in North America in 2021, joining other fledging sports leagues in a bid to lure younger viewers with a streamlined game format.
Dubbed 3ICE, the league was founded by Ed Johnston, the son of a former NFL goaltender, and Craig Patrick, the former general manager of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Johnston serves as 3ICE’s CEO and Patrick is its commissioner.
Inspired by the NHL’s three-on-three overtime format, the upstart league will emphasize a fast pace-of-play and fewer rules than traditional professional hockey. Each game will consist of two eight-minute periods with no stoppages.
“3ICE is going to thrive on pure skill, creativity, playmaking and goal scoring,” said Patrick, Commissioner of 3ICE. “What that means for fans is that our events will be all hockey and no filler. Fans will get seven games in a single-elimination format and a champion will be crowned at each of our nine stops across North America. No penalties, only penalty shots. No long intermissions or stoppage in play for video reviews. Just pure excitement.”
There will be eight teams of seven players each, including a goaltender. Rather than have home cities for each team, the league will adopt a touring format, traveling to nine cities across the U.S. and Canada over a nine-week span.
3ICE has no affiliation to the NHL or any other pro hockey league. The league said it has already signed broadcast deals with CBS Sports and Canada’s TSN and RDS.
As traditional broadcasters and streaming platforms search for sports content capable of attracting large live audiences, several upstart sports leagues have debuted alongside established organizations such as the NFL and NBA.
The XFL will begin play with a streamlined version of pro football in February. The Big3, a three-on-three basketball league, begin play in 2017 and also has a television deal with CBS Sports.