Off The Post: 3-on-3 – a beer leaguer’s view.
This column is being written about two hours before the author takes to the ice for a weekly 3-on-3 pickup hockey game.
The timing seems fitting, given that the 3-on-3 format was just one of many rule changes that were tested this past week at the NHL’s second annual Research and Development camp in Toronto.
As reported in Yahoo’s Puck Daddy entry on Wednesday, the amount of open ice didn’t produce the amount of scoring chances as one would assume; however this could have been a result of the timing of the scrimmages, which were held towards the end of a two-hour session among 2012 draft eligible players.
But who wouldn’t want to see this format being used to decide games at an NHL level?
To provide some reference, the Sunday night games in which I participate are free-flowing and dynamic. Goals are scored at a rate of about one every 2 minutes; last week’s final tally was 23-21 after an eighty-minute session.
By no means am I daring to compare our group of players to the NHL (well, except for me playing like either Steve Smith or Chris Phillips accidentally putting the puck into my own goal – that I can do).
It’s just difficult to compile stats of 3-on-3 ice time at the elite level, given that the situation occurs so rarely. In fact, only one goal has been scored at 3-on-3 in the NHL in the past two seasons. Do you know who scored it? (answer given at the end of the column).
There are a few differences between our game, and the professional game, apart from none of us being worthy enough to carry the jockstrap of even a fourth-line pro.
* The rink on which we play is three-quarters the size of an NHL rink. (The Richmond Hill facility is owned by NHL alumni Mike Gartner and Wes Jarvis, in a partnership with Memorial Cup winning coach Rick Cornacchia. The Leafs held a mini practice there in October 2009).
* The neutral zone is drastically shorter; the centre red line is a mere two strides from either blueline.
* Each team is divided into three groups of 3, with each trio allotted shifts of 90 seconds at a time, indicated by a buzzer.
* The rule on offside is – once the attacking team gains the blueline, the centre red line defines the zone for offside.
As you may expect, the play is offense-driven. Almost every sequence within a shift consists of either a breakaway or an odd-man rush. Bring your ladders boys, ‘cause we’re going cherry-picking.
The earlier part of a typical game features teams attacking with two players high, and one defender back. However towards the later half, with one team protecting a lead, you’ll often see only one man forecheck with two defenders back – thus “inverting the triangle”.
At least that’s the intent. In the event of a turnover, who can resist the temptation to cheat on their assignment and jump into the rush going the other way? And if it’s turned over at that point with all three players caught moving forward, guess what happens (apologies to Nick, our goalie).
To reiterate, our beer league style of play is no accurate comparison to the NHL.
However, given the dynamics of 3-on-3, anyone can appreciate the excitement it generates.
The league isn’t likely to implement any of the recently tested rules this year. When the time comes, 3-on-3 should be at the top of the list of changes.
Trivia answer: Mike Fisher, then with Ottawa, scored a 3-on-3 goal in overtime on January 30, 2010. The Senators and their opponents – the Habs – each had a player serving non-coincidental penalties.
Rob Del Mundo
is the author of Off The Post
, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca
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