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.”

Scroll Down For:

    Hockey Canada’s funding frozen for handling of sexual assault claim

    hockey canada
    Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Hockey Canada’s federal funding is being frozen in the wake of the national organization’s handling of an alleged sexual assault and out-of-court settlement.

    Hockey Canada will only have funding restored once it discloses the recommendations it received from an independent law firm hired to investigate the alleged incident four years ago, Minster for Sport Pascale St-Onge said in a statement Wednesday.

    Hockey Canada must also become signatories to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, a new government agency with the power to independently investigate abuse complaints and sanction inappropriate behavior.

    The move comes after Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney were questioned by lawmakers this week during a hearing into the organization’s response to the alleged sexual assault involving eight players.

    Hockey Canada quietly settled the lawsuit last month after a woman claimed she was assaulted by members of the country’s 2018 gold-medal winning world junior hockey team at an organization function.

    The woman, now 24, sought $3.55 million in damages from Hockey Canada, the Canadian Hockey League and the unnamed players. Details of the settlement have not been made public, but Smith said Monday that no government or insurance money was used.

    A spokeswoman for Hockey Canada did not reply to an email request for comment Wednesday.

    Twelve of the 19 players at the event spoke with the investigators from the law firm hired by the organization. Hockey Canada has said repeatedly the woman decided against speaking with police or its investigators. Smith and Renney reiterated Monday the woman also chose not to identify the players.

    Smith said London police informed Hockey Canada its criminal investigation was closed as of February 2019. The independent investigation ended in September 2020, but Renney said the report is incomplete and shouldn’t be released.

    The NHL, which also only recently learned of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation because some of the players in question are now in the league.

    Hockey Canada received $14 million from the government in 2020 and 2021, including $3.4 million in COVID-19 subsidies, according to government records.

    Federal money makes up 6% of Hockey Canada’s funding.

    Hockey Canada leaders pressed on handling of sexual assault claim

    Engel-Natzke capitals
    Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

    OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Hockey Canada executives should have forced members of the country’s gold medal-winning junior team to speak with third-party investigators about an alleged sexual assault that occurred four years ago, a member of Parliament told the executives at a hearing on Monday.

    A woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the 2018 world junior team at a gala event in June of that year. Her lawsuit was settled last month.

    Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney and president Scott Smith were called to testify about their handling of the allegation before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa.

    Smith, who’s set to take over for Renney as CEO on July 1, told the committee that junior team players were “strongly encouraged” to speak with third-party investigators hired by Hockey Canada. But the interviews were not mandated.

    “Mr. Smith, if you want real accountability from Hockey Canada, you should have demanded all players participate in the interviews (with the outside law firm),” Conservative MP Kevin Wraugh said. “You own that. … That is unacceptable.”

    Smith, who is also the national sport body’s chief operating officer, responded by saying that Hockey Canada “borrows” players from other leagues for international competitions.

    “We’ve made some changes to our code of conduct,” he said. “We’re having discussions right now as to whether or not we can strengthen the ability to compel players that we borrow to participate in investigations regarding what happens under our care.”

    Bloc Quebecois MP Sebastien Lemire suggested in French that Hockey Canada play without its logo for a year “so that people will think about this issue … culture in Hockey Canada and the responsibility that you have. I believe that (Hockey Canada is) John Doe No. 9 in this case.”

    Renney said Hockey Canada first learned of the alleged incident the following morning — June 19, 2018 — when a relative of the woman contacted its human resources department, and that police in London, Ontario, were informed that evening.

    Smith said even though it took four years for the story to come out, and only after TSN was first to report the details last month, there wasn’t a cover-up.

    “The police were notified, we engaged a third-party investigator, we notified Sport Canada, and we offered support to the young woman,” he said. “That’s not an indication of sweeping something under the rug.”

    Details of the settlement with the woman have not been released, but Smith said the players alleged to be involved did not contribute financially and no government money was used.

    None of the allegations against the players have been proven in court.

    Smith said London police informed Hockey Canada their criminal investigation was closed as of February 2019. Hockey Canada, meanwhile, kept its own investigation open through September 2020.

    “A lot of people are taking the allegations in the statement of claim as fact,” Smith said. “The challenge that we had is through extensive efforts over a 26-month period, we were not able to confirm what happened that evening.”

    The NHL is conducting its own investigation because a number of players from that world junior team are now in the league, while Canada’s sports minister ordered a forensic audit of Hockey Canada.

    “No one has been held accountable,” Conservative MP John Nater said of the alleged assault. “No one lost the privilege of wearing the Maple Leaf on their jersey. … I’ve heard zero tolerance mentioned today. I wish that was true.

    “But if there’s truly a zero-tolerance situation … every single player who was in London that weekend should have been mandated to participate in that review or lose the opportunity and the privilege of being associated with Hockey Canada.”

    Host Finland beats Canada 4-3 in OT for world hockey title

    Host Finland beats Canada 4-3 in OT for world hockey title
    Jari Pestelacci/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

    TAMPERE, Finland — Sakari Manninen scored on a power play at 6:42 of 3-on-3 overtime and Finland beat Canada 4-3 on Sunday for its fourth world hockey championship title.

    Finland completed an Olympics-world double after winning in China in February, joining Sweden in 2006 as the only countries to win Olympic and world titles in the same year.

    “It’s unbelievable,” Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen said. “You can’t even understand what has happened. Maybe in the summer, we can figure out what really happened. But three months and two gold medals – it’s unbelievable!”

    Thomas Chabot was sent off for hooking, setting up the winning power play. With the 4-on-3 advantage, Manninen scored on a one-timer from the right circle off a pass from Mikael Granlund.

    “I think it’s pretty obvious that the guy threw himself, but at the end of the day my stick was in there and I put myself in that position, so it’s a hockey call and things happen quick,” Chabot said. “But I think everyone can agree that it was a bit of a dive, I think.”

    Added Canadian forward Pierre-Luc Dubois: “You work so hard and for it to be decided like that, it sucks. We know when we come into these tournaments it’s different rules, but that’s not the point. It’s frustrating. You don’t even know the rulebook anymore.”

    The countries met for the third straight time in the finals. Finland beat Canada in 2019 in Slovakia, and Canada topped the Finns last year in Latvia. The 2020 event was canceled.

    Granlund scored twice and Joel Armia added a goal for Finland. Jussi Olkinuora made 19 saves.

    Dylan Cozens, Zach Whitecloud and Max Comtois scored for Canada, with Whiteclould and Comtois connecting late in the third with goalie Matt Tomkins off for an extra attacker.

    “It was crazy,” Granlund said. “It was great! What an ending to the game. They tied it up in the third period, but we found a way in the end and this is just awesome.”

    Whitecloud pulled Canada within one with 2:12 remaining to pull Canada within a goal and Comtois tied it with 1:24 to go.

    “It’s the fight in our team,” Canada’s Cole Sillinger said. “We never give up. We pushed them till the end, and it’s unfortunate that there was another penalty in overtime and they capitalized. They played a great hockey game, and congratulations to them.”

    Cozens opened the scoring for Canada on a power play early in the second period.

    Granlund, who plays for the NHL’s Nashville Predators, tied it early in the third on a 5-on-3 advantage with Canada’s Noah Gregor (tripping) and Sillinger (high-sticking) serving penalties.

    Canadian goaltender Chris Driedger was injured on the play and was replaced by Tomkins, who quickly surrendered a second power-play goal to Backlund. Armia made it 3-1 with 5:56 left in regulation on a wrist shot though traffic.

    In the third-place game, David Pastrnak had a hat trick in the Czech Republic’s 8-4 victory over the United States.

    U.S., Canada men reach semifinals at 2022 IIHF World Championship

    2022 iihf world championship

    TAMPERE, Finland — Drake Batherson scored on a power play 43 seconds into overtime to give Canada a 4-3 comeback victory over Sweden on Thursday night in the world hockey quarterfinals.

    In another quarterfinal matchup, Ben Meyers scored twice, Adam Gaudette added a goal and Jeremy Swayman made 33 saves as the United States topped Switzerland 3-0.

    Canada will face the Czech Republic on Saturday in the semifinals, while the U.S. will play Finland.

    The Czech Republic beat Germany 4-1 on Thursday, while Finland beat Slovakia 4-2.

    Canada, the defending champion, overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third period. Ryan Graves scored 1:21 into the period and Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mathew Barzal connected 30 seconds apart late in regulation.

    After William Nylander was called for tripping 25 seconds into overtime, Batherson fired a sharp-angle shot behind goalie Linus Ullmark from the bottom of the faceoff circle.

    “Obviously, being down 3-0 going into the third period was not what we planned, but we were able to get that goal early in the third,” Batherson said. “I was frustrated that I took a penalty, and to be honest I thought we were going to have a hard time coming back, but we never gave up.”

    Nylander, Carl Klingberg and Max Friberg scored for Sweden.

    Chris Driedger stopped 16 shots for Canada. Ullmark made 38 saves for Sweden.

    Marko Anttila scored twice to help Finland beat Slovakia. David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Roman Cervenka and Jiri Smejkal scored in the Czech Republic’s victory over Germany.