Sports Hockey

A new kind of pro hockey coming to town

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

What has been missing from professional hockey is the excitement factor.

The NHL recognized that a while ago and has been fiddling around with the size of goaltenders’ equipment, changing offside rules and icing. It even introduced 3-on-3 hockey for overtime periods.

It was about then Justin Fox saw some potentential.

“I was sitting around with some friends watching a game that went into overtime. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to see a game that was that exciting?’”

The idea of 3HL hockey was born.

In a nutshell, 3HL provides the excitement of what fans see in an overtime game in a tournament format with professional hockey players.

People will get a chance to see that when the 3HL with the Collingwood Classic coming to the Eddie Bush Arena Saturday, this Family Day weekend.

“The 3HL is the world’s first professional hockey league,” Fox said during a press conference for the event. “We have it as a tour aspect, kind of like a PGA tour, where we bring in players to take part in a single elimination, March Madness-style bracket tournament.”

The games are 14 minutes long, with two seven-minute halves with eight teams. Each bracket comes with a cash prize for the winning team, and the eventual winner will bring home $7,000 in prize money.

“There is a $15,000 cash purse and teams earn a portion of that after every round they win,” said Fox. “It’s like the PGA tour or World Poker where if you make the cut you start making money.”

This is definitely not a beer league. All of the teams are sporting players who have played no lower than the OHL, where some are coming from careers in the American League, East Coast League and even a dozen or so who had NHL careers.

“These are all legit hockey players. The average age is probably 25. They’re ready to play,” said Fox. “There are some younger guys that are coming up and others who just want to keep their hands in.”

To keep the pace of the game, the 3HL borrows from a few sports. Lacrosse is one, where there are no faceoffs after the goalie smothers the puck, and the goalie reintroduces the puck back into play. If a puck goes out of the rink, the ref has what Fox is calling an instantaneous faceoff, dropping the puck in the closest natural area whether players are lined up or not. There is no offsides and no icing, just the full length of the ice.

There aren’t any penalties, either, whereby a player is sent off. In its place is a ‘chase’ penalty shot.

“This is really a tactical game. It’s all about being positional. It’s fast, end-to-end action,” said Fox.

This is the first season for the league and so far Fox is likes what he sees.

“People want to see action. In a 14-minute game, people are seeing nine goals on average. The puck is always moving and, for the pro, there aren’t that many opportunities in Canada to play,” said Fox.

The YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka is receiving proceeds from the game to help with its programming. Tickets can be purchased at the YMCA in Collingwood, Mad Dog Coffee and Vinyl Café on Hurontario Street or the website.

Action begins at 6 p.m. 

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