3ICE: Bringing the Chill to your 2021 Summer

3ICE: Bringing the Chill to your 2021 Summer

By Chris Cole

January 17, 2020

3ICE, a new hockey league is coming in the summer of 2021 will tour North America offering the high stakes 3-on-3 action seen in regular season NHL OT and making it the main feature.  The league will be broadcast in both the US and Canada on CBS Sports and TSN, respectively. I had the chance to ask some questions to 3ICE CEO, EJ Johnston (son of former NHL goalie, coach, and GM Ed Johnson) to dive a little deeper into what 3ICE is planning to add to the ice hockey experience and sporting landscape.

CHRIS: Besides basketball’s Big3 and the NHL All-Star Games are there any other factors or influences that led to the creation of 3ICE?

EJ: There are many.  The 3v3 OT format is the primary source as well as NHL Rookie Camps where they culminate with 3 on 3 tournaments, but we are borrowing a lot from NASCAR, Formula 1 and the English Premier League for our sponsorship model, from Formula E and eSports from a fan interactivity model, from The India Premier League for some business operations model and from social media platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram from a content sharing perspective.

CHRIS: What were the reasons for playing 3v3 hockey on a full sheet of ice compared to the Youth Games which is two games played on the opposite ends of the ice? 

EJ: It was an easy decision. The current NHL 3v3 OT format is so electric with the wide open ice, it really gives the quick, agile, highly skilled, highly creative player a platform to dazzle fans. We never considered the Youth Games model. 

CHRIS: I saw on the 3ICE website that teams will be identified by sponsorship, but on Twitter there was mention of location as well. How will that work to create a supported base for the teams?

EJ: We are a touring model traveling to 9 cities over 9 weeks.  Just like NASCAR, Formula E, F1 or The PGA Tour, the whole of 3ICE travels to each city each Saturday for our 3 hours of entertainment. Like F1 does with Team Ferrari, Team McLaren or Team ROKiT, the teams will be named and branded after our sponsors, but we will take it several steps further. The uniforms will be branded with the company’s logo, they will have in-ice signage, dasherboard signage, 30-second ad units and on-screen features in our live TV broadcasts, a full social media campaign and customized content created for them. We envision one day seeing Team Toyota vs Team Ford and Team Samsung vs Team HP (all of these examples are hypothetical and not currently 3ICE sponsors.)

CHRIS: Since this will be a touring league will each team’s “hometown” be based off of the cities for each tournament location (i.e. a team with a Houston designation because the third tournament is being played in Houston)? 

EJ: No.  With the advent of fantasy sports, sport-betting, video gaming, fans have become fans of individual players just as much as they are of the local team.  I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, but love to watch Sebastian Aho or Ovi or Kane or McDavid play and I root for them to do well. Fans of 3ICE will cheer for great hockey and cheer for players they like.  Because of our format, we expect players with the most skill, the most creativity and the highest hockey IQ's to emerge as stars.

CHRIS: What arenas are 3ICE looking to play in capacity-wise? Will they be arenas with NHL tenants or minor league (or both)?

EJ: We have about 25 cities in consideration for our 9 tour stops. We will be in a combination of NHL arenas, AHL arenas and what we are calling hockey-hungry markets, meaning places like Quebec City’s Videotron’s Centre or Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre could end up making the cut.

CHRIS: What will possibly be the mix (percentage) for the tour stops in terms of traditional/non-traditional hockey markets?

EJ:  There may be 1 or 2 surprises in there, we will have to see.  But I can tell you we are going to ask the fans to help us select the cities as we want them to be part of every aspect of shaping 3ICE.  We like to say we are inviting 3ICE fans into “the biggest locker room in the world”, so things like where we play, rule innovations, helping to select our 2nd round match-ups are all aspects we want our fans to influence.

CHRIS: Will there be anything unique with the TV broadcasts that we do not currently see in NHL games?  

EJ: Absolutely. Our 3 brand pillars are Fun. Innovative. Snackable. With only 2 referees needed to cover our game, and all that space out there, we are going to have a cameraman on the ice with a handheld camera giving fans a perspective that has never been done before in any sport. Imagine the cameraman skating down the ice with the player during a penalty shot? We are also going to invite fans to be part of the broadcast, for example if a fan sitting in the front row, along the glass right behind the goal and has a better perspective on a top-shelf snipe, then we will cut that into our instant replay package and credit that fan on the air and across social media. 

CHRIS: Lastly, considering part of the basis for 3ICE is influenced by the NHL All-Star game, will 3ICE have their own All-Star Game and/or Skills Competition?

EJ: No plans for the immediate future for either of those, but you never know.



I do like the concept as a whole, especially curious about having cameramen on the ice.  I want to know if they will be capturing the action through a helmet cam or a steady cam.  I know I should have asked if there will be a draft and when certain other details would be revealed, but considering we are still a year and a half away from launching so they probably know as much as I do for those points.  

One of the parts I am cautious about (but hoping to be proven wrong) is the sponsored team names.  The concept is influenced, as Johnson said, by Formula 1, but it is also in a similar way eSports teams are identified.  It might be because I’m getting older and out of the key demographic 3Ice is aiming for, but I don’t say that as a bad thing.  

With all that said, I really wish 3ICE was starting this summer instead of next summer, but they are only just starting and have time on their side to spread awareness of the brand and to hype up the hockey community.

If you want to learn more about the league you can go to their website 3Ice.com