3-on-3 hockey league launches, could be step toward Olympics

3ice hockey
Harry How/3ICE/Getty Images

Hours before Canada beat the U.S. to win women’s hockey gold at the Beijing Olympics in February, International Ice Hockey Federation officials lamented having only two medal events on sports’ biggest stage.

The IIHF and IOC have discussed adding to that, and a new 3-on-3 league that debuted earlier this month could be another step toward more hockey on a global scale. With Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier, Grant Fuhr, Joe Mullen and Larry Murphy among the coaches and fast-paced games featuring plenty of goals, 3ICE is another experiment that could make 3-on-3 part of hockey’s long-term future.

“We want to get this thing off the ground and make sure it’s entertaining — it’s got the entertainment aspect to the degree we can possibly give it and give it some credibility,” said Trottier, who won the Stanley Cup six times as a player. “All of us would be grateful for the opportunity to grow with this to the point where it does go bigger, better, Olympic, global: wherever the growth takes it.”

Seven years after the NHL adopted 3-on-3 for overtime in the regular season, 3ICE founder E.J. Johnston has big ideas about taking it international and eventually holding a youth tournament like baseball’s Little League World Series and annual adult world championships.

Commissioner Craig Patrick, a back-to-back Cup winner in 1991 and ’92 as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and gold medalist as an assistant coach on the 1980 U.S. “Miracle On Ice” team, has been impressed with the available talent since tryouts in April and sees room for 3-on-3 hockey to carve out room in a crowded entertainment landscape.

“A lot of sports are going to short-form type things, and that’s kind of what we are, like BIG3 basketball,” Patrick said. “There’s a cricket league in India that’s vastly followed and doing very, very well. There’s rugby sevens. Everybody’s doing something a little different in their sport, and we feel that this is the way to go for hockey.”

He’s not alone in that thinking. After 3-on-3 basketball debuted as an Olympic event in Tokyo last year, new IIHF president Luc Tardif has set the goal of doing the same for hockey.

It may not happen as soon as 2026 in Milan and Cortina, a men’s tournament that is again expected to feature NHL players after two Olympics without them, but 3-on-3 was tried at the Youth Winter Olympic Games in Lausanne in 2020 and will get another look with more serious competition at the same event in South Korea in 2024.

“Maybe we can have a format more adapted to a new public,” Tardif said. “We’re always going to play traditional ice hockey, but why not try to find a way for a new format?”

The format is off to high-scoring start for 3ICE, with games averaging almost eight goals apiece.

“3-on-3′s always fun to watch, the pace is high and it’s exciting for the fans,” said Fuhr, who backstopped Edmonton to four Stanley Cup titles in the 1980s. “It’s a great league for guys to showcase their talent. Whether they’re looking for another contract, looking for a place to play in Europe, it gives them an opportunity, which would generally be in an offseason, to go out and show people the skill that they have.”

One-time New Jersey Devils forward Joe Whitney is the leading scorer in a league that also includes former NHL winger T.J. Hensick and goalies like Martin Brodeur’s son, Jeremy, and Ryan Zapolski, who was the U.S. starter at the 2018 Olympics.

Assuming the NHL resumes regular Olympic participation, a 3-on-3 tournament could provide additional spots for players.

“The skillsets are, in some ways, so different to play 3-on-3 as opposed to 5-on-5 full contact,” said Parker Milner, who is goaltending in 3ICE after the pandemic abruptly ended his playing career in the minors. “You get a chance to showcase some other guys, and there’d be some other skillsets that would be useful for 3-on-3.”

Another incentive: 3-on-3 could get more countries involved in hockey. Tardif pointed out it’s easier for some national federations to put together rosters of 12 or 13 players than the full 22 or more necessary for tradtional hockey.

“The 3-on-3 opportunities might be great for the small countries that are not able to get the full team and it might be a beginning platform to grow and to really show the hockey in many other cities,” IIHF senior vice president Petr Briza said.

For now, those cities are Las Vegas and Denver, which played host to the first two weekends of games, with stops upcoming in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Canada before returning to Las Vegas for the playoffs on Aug. 20.

Milner said it’s a good chance to keep hockey going throughout the summer after the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. He added that some 3ICE rule changes, particularly players not being able to take the puck back past the red line, could work in the NHL to make overtime even better.

“At least in the first couple weeks we’ve seen that just creates kind of an up-and-down game,” he said. “I know a lot of people complain about the shootouts. I think you’d definitely see a lot fewer shootouts if they were able to implement that.”

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    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

    Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

    Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.

    Bruins rolling, rest of NHL making final push for playoffs

    John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    SUNRISE, Fla. — Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights lost eight of 10 games going into the All-Star break after leading the Pacific Division at the midway point of the NHL season.

    They’re still safely in a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they can’t keep it up.

    “We’re still in a good position – that’s the way we look at it,” Cassidy said. “There’s not too many teams that can cruise home the last 30 games in this league, and we’re certainly not one of them.”

    Cassidy’s old team, the Boston Bruins, probably could. They’re atop the NHL and running away with the Atlantic Division.

    With 39 wins and 83 points through 51 games, Boston is on pace to break the record for the best regular season in NHL history. The Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in seven games in the first round last year, are next in the standings at 76 points.

    “Top to bottom, there’s no weaknesses,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

    The Bruins are in a class of their own, but the playoff races behind them in the East and West should be hot down the stretch with roughly 30 games to go before the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.


    The Hurricanes rode a seven-game winning streak into the break, putting some fear into the Bruins in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage through the postseason. Winger Max Pacioretty re-tearing his right Achilles tendon five games into his return didn’t slow them down, and if their goaltending holds up, Carolina stands a good chance of reaching the East final.

    “This team, it’s a special group of guys,” said Brind’Amour, who captained Carolina to the Cup in 2006 and is in his fifth year as coach. “We kind of show that nightly. It’s just very consistent, and they take their job real serious. They do it right.”

    The second-place New Jersey Devils are contending for the first time since 2018. Bottoming out the next season helped them win the lottery for No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, a two-time All-Star who has them winning ahead of schedule.

    “Much better than being out of the mix,” Hughes said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to be a lot of important hockey, and it’s going to be really competitive and we’re really pumped to be where we are.”

    They’re followed by the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. All three New York-area teams could make it, which was the expectation for the Rangers after reaching the East final last year.

    “I think the run last year really taught us a few things and stuff that we obviously could build on for the rest of this year,” 2021 Norris-Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox said.


    The Rangers lost to the Lightning in six games last spring, when two-time champion Tampa Bay reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive season before getting beat by the Colorado Avalanche.

    The Lightning are almost certain to face the Toronto Maple Leafs – who haven’t won a playoff series since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005 – in the first round and remain a threat to the Bruins.

    But Boston has separated itself despite starting the season without top left winger Brad Marchand and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins have lost only 12 games under new coach Jim Montgomery.

    “You just keep winning,” said All-Star right winger David Pastrnak, who’s tied for third in the league in scoring. “Every single line and every single guy is going and it obviously builds our confidence. It’s funny sometimes what confidence can do in hockey.”

    The Islanders should have some more confidence after acquiring 30-goal scorer Bo Horvat from Vancouver, but still need to make up ground to get in.


    Defending champion Colorado climbed in the standings – winning seven of eight going into the break despite an injury-riddled first half of the season. Captain Gabriel Landeskog still has not made his season debut since undergoing knee surgery. It would be foolish to bet against the Avs coming out of the West again.

    “It’s up to us: We control our own fate,” All-Star center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We need to definitely keep playing the way we were before the break. No matter who’s in the lineup we were playing well, playing hard, so it would definitely help with healthy bodies.”

    They still trail the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild in the Central, and the Nashville Predators are on their heels. Only the Stars and Jets are essentially guaranteed a spot.

    “Every point, you grind for it,” Stars leading scorer Jason Robertson said. “Every point’s going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”


    Undisputed MVP favorite Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, who were swept by Colorado in the West final, have a little bit of catching up to do in the Pacific Division.

    The top spot is held by the Seattle Kraken, who surprisingly are on pace to make the playoffs in their second season but still need to fend off the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Edmonton – and the Battle of Alberta rival Calgary Flames – have the talent to not only get in but make a run. McDavid leads the league with 41 goals and 92 points, 16 more than No. 2 scorer and teammate Leon Draisaitl, and is producing unlike anyone since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in the mid-1990s.

    Now he’ll try to carry the Oilers into the playoffs and beyond.

    “It hasn’t been easy at all for our group. We’ve kind of had to battle for everything that we’ve got,” McDavid said. “We’ve always been a second-half team for whatever reason. Even since my first year, we’ve always been better in the second half, so we’ll definitely look to continue that. That being said, we’re not going to hang our hat on that and expect that to carry us to the playoffs. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

    Capitals sign Sonny Milano to 3-year, $5.7 million extension

    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    ARLINGTON, Va. — The Washington Capitals signed winger Sonny Milano to a three-year extension worth $5.7 million.

    General manager Brian MacLellan announced the contract, adding to an already busy All-Star break for taking care of future business. The Capitals extended forward Dylan Strome for five years, $25 million.

    Like Strome, Milano has fit in as a new addition for Washington. He’s now set to count $1.9 million against the salary cap through the 2025-26 season.

    The 26-year-old Milano has been a near-perfect bargain signing for the Capitals after joining them on an NHL veteran one-year deal after this season got underway. He has eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 40 games since getting called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League.

    Originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 16th in 2014, Milano split his first eight seasons in the league with them and the Anaheim Ducks. He went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent last summer despite putting up 34 points in 66 games with Anaheim.