If you’re a fan of the 3-on-3 overtime format in the NHL, you might find a new pro hockey league operating in southern Ontario appeals to your hockey taste.
The Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa played host to a new kind of professional tournament Jan. 21.
Former Oshawa Generals captain and Phoenix Coyotes draft pick Brett Maclean is among the handful of familiar faces from the OHL to take part in the newly formed 3HL (3-on-3 Hockey League).
The league is made up of eight teams from around Ontario, competing in the fast-paced action of 3-on-3 hockey.
The Oshawa Showcase was set up as a three-round tournament, allowing teams to earn up to $7,000.
The Oshawa 88’s faced the Markham Millionaires in round one, taking it 5-2. But Oshawa was eliminated by the Newmarket Saints in the second round 6-2.
The Saints went on to play the Toronto Bees in the final, where the Bees won 5-2.
Tickets were sold for $20 online and at the door. Given the league’s fresh appearance on the scene and despite a great deal of promotion through social media, most of those gathered in the small crowd were family and friends of the players.
Among those checking it out were a few Oshawa Generals’ fans, who decided to see what it was about.
“I saw it on the [Tribute Communities Centre] website when I was on there looking for Generals’ tickets,” says Joanne Lyon. “It looked interesting.”
The game varies greatly from what fans of the National Hockey League (NHL) and Canadian Hockey League (CHL) are used to, but the heart of the game remains the same.
“It isn’t like an NHL game where you can pretty much call what’s going to happen because you’re familiar with the rules,” Lyon says. “As a hockey fan, I quite enjoyed it.”
Teams in the league are currently made up of about eight players, with three skaters on the ice at a time with a goalie in net.
Michael Platten is one of those goalies. He was in net for the Kitchener Lions at the Oshawa Showcase.
“The 3HL is unique,” Platten says. “The 3-on-3 layout makes for a fast, open iced game with the opportunity for big hits, big saves and some silky goals. You really have to be aware at all times out there, and as a goalie you have to try to be more active with playing the puck. It’s a real heads’ up game. Very fun to play, that’s for sure.”
Platten also says the rules are very different than other pro leagues.
“There are no offsides or icings in the 3HL,” he says. “Penalties are awarded by a penalty shot, where the shooter is chased by the opposing team’s skaters. The games are shorter, as are the rosters, making for a lot of ice and a lot of skating.
“If a goalie freezes the puck in most leagues, he holds for a whistle,” Platten explained. “In the 3HL, once the goalie covers it, the opposing team backs off to the hash marks and allows him to play it or give it to one of his teammates to play.”
There are almost no stops at all in the game, which is played in two seven-minute halves with a minute break between.
It’s all still relatively informal, with players who aren’t currently in the game coming out to sit in the stands and watch their opponents play.
Mitch Scott, captain of the Oshawa 88’s, says that as the league finds its footing in the professional hockey world, the players have taken on roles off the ice to ensure success.
“Each one of the 64 players in the league are the best assets that the league has,” says Scott. “We’re the ambassadors for it. We’re promoting it within our communities.”
Scott himself has found a passion for the business side of the game, with hopes to possibly manage one of the teams in the years to come.
“I started helping out with the league a lot more and helped bring in sponsorship deals and equipment deals,” he says. “I ended up bringing in the BioSteel deal for us, I had all of our jerseys done up, basically all the equipment that all the guys wear, I got the sponsorship deals set up for that.”
Hockey fans may recall seeing recruitment ads on Facebook or receiving emails about tryouts. Although the teams have enough players to compete, Scott says this is a strategy the league still plans to continue with.
“As the league grows we’re looking to add guys,” Scott says. “We’re in talks for maybe holding more tryouts for this season as events go on. We’d love to hear from people if they think that they’re qualified to play in the league.”
The 3HL’s next stop will be a similar showcase in Collingwood on Feb. 18. The tour stops back in Oshawa on May 6 for the first ever 3HL Champions Cup.