“I think you would have absolutely loved being a fly on the wall during that process.”
When interviewing 3ICE CEO E.J. Johnston, son of NHL All-Star and current 3ICE coach Ed Johnston, those were some of the first words he had to say regarding 3ICE’s draft. A typical hockey draft focuses on bringing a variety of new talent into any given league. However, when talking to Johnston, it became quickly apparent that adding new talent is only half of the equation when the coaches sit down to make their draft picks. As a result, 3ICE yet again found another new and exciting way to reimagine traditional hockey.
Each 3ICE Coach Builds a New Team Every Year
In 3ICE’s first year, the Hockey Hall of Fame coaches, such as Larry Murphy, Guy Carbonneau, and more, needed a way to build their teams from the ground up. As a result, they engaged in a multi-day process to decide what direction they were going to take their teams. Johnston explained that the process began with taking a list of every player who auditioned to join the league and separating them based on skill level, play style, personality, and more.
From there, the coaches began a snake draft to build their rosters. As expected, the coaches with children in the player pool were eager to get them on the team, but each coach had a strategy for their draft as well. Some looked to load up on veteran leadership, while others looked for electric, younger talent. However, going into year two, the coaches changed their strategies a bit due to new draft rules.
Rather than having every roster remain the same with new additions through the draft, the coaches are forced to select a completely new team each year. If a coach chooses, he is able to retain up to two players from the team he had the season prior, but that is the only guarantee. The draft uses reverse order from the previous season’s standings while maintaining the snake-pick style, which forces the coaches to decide to select from the 50 percent of previous skaters who returned or take chances on the new crop of talent.
Johnston believes the style they developed this season is one they’ll be able to maintain for years to come. It allows every year to feel completely different while letting each coach get a chance to use the previous year’s knowledge to their advantage. Of course, it offers its own unique challenges with a changing player pool, but that only makes the draft all the more fun for the fans.
3ICE Rosters Continue to Get Younger
Despite 3ICE only existing as a league for the past two years, Johnston is already noticing a change in the way the game is played. Between years one and two, the average age of the players already managed to decrease by an entire year to 30.07 years old. Going into future seasons, Johnston believes that number is going to continue to drop.
“My guess is that we’ll be a third, if not closer to 50 percent, returning players again,” Johnston said. “That being said, I also expect our talent pool to improve again and get younger again by at least six months.”
With the league’s average age continuing to trend down, it is reasonable to assume that 3ICE will keep getting more and more electric each year. The draft is only the first stage in creating not only entertaining hockey for the fans but building a championship-caliber team. Now that a system is in place, the coaches must continue to balance the challenge of drafting younger while bringing returning talent back to their rosters. Regardless, fans should likely not get too comfortable watching their favorite players in the same jersey year after year.
The 3ICE season began on June 28, and will be broadcast live by CBS Sports, TSN and TVA Sports. The season will run for six weeks before the championship game takes place on Aug. 12 in Philadelphia. Stay tuned for more content about 3ICE as the season progresses, and make sure to tune into 3ICE this summer to enjoy the best part of hockey each and every week.