Indigenous Hall of Famers to coach in new pro hockey league

A pair of Indigenous hockey Hall of Famers who have won a combined 12 Stanley Cups are among those who will be coaching in a new professional hockey league.

Bryan Trottier, who has seven Stanley Cup rings, and Grant Fuhr, a member of five National Hockey League championship squads, have signed on to coach in 3ICE, a league that is expected to launch in June 2021.

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As its moniker implies, 3ICE will feature 3-on-3 hockey.

The league will feature eight teams. But they will not be representing any particular cities.

Instead, 3ICE will see all of its participating squads take part in weekend tournaments in yet-to-be-announced locations throughout Canada and the United States.

All of the league entrants will take part in the first eight tournaments. And then just the four clubs that have collected the most points from those events will be invited to a final championship weekend.

3ICE matches will consist of two eight-minute periods with a running clock. Tournaments will feature a single-loss elimination format.

And events will be over relatively quickly. For starters, all eight teams will play, followed by a pair of semi-finals contests and then a championship match.

Tournaments, which will be on Saturdays, will last about three-and-a-half hours and will be televised in both Canada and the United States.

Clubs will have just seven players on their rosters, six skaters and a goalie.

Trottier, who has Métis, Cree and Chippewa ancestry, was quick to jump onboard when he was asked to be a part of 3ICE.

“It’s an interesting kind of coaching,” he said. “This is not the NHL or 60-minute hockey. This is fast and furious. This is about bringing and maintaining a sense of composure.”

Trottier won the Stanley Cup six times as a player, four with the New York Islanders and twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He won his seventh championship while serving as an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.

Though games will only last 16 minutes, Trottier is anticipating high-scoring affairs.

“It’s firewagon hockey,” said Trottier, who was born in the Saskatchewan village of Val Marie but now lives in Eighty Four, a small community near Pittsburgh. “I think that makes it unique. That was part of the sell. It’s an opportunity to showcase our game on the high skill side.”

Despite being a former goaltender, Fuhr is also looking forward to the high-scoring games 3ICE is expected to provide.

“It’s an offensive game,” he said. “That’s my favourite part of it.”

Fuhr won all five of his Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, a franchise that was known for its offence-first thinking throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s.

Though he has some Indigenous ancestry, Fuhr said he is not quite sure of his background. He said he only knows one of his birth parents was Indigenous, but that he was adopted when he was just 19 days old.

“I know at one point I had a Metis card,” said Fuhr, who was born in the Alberta city of Spruce Grove but now lives in Palm Desert, Calif. “But I never looked at that after I turned pro.”

Fuhr added he does recall competing in some hockey tournaments growing up that featured Indigenous-only players.

Though sites where 3ICE tournaments will be played have not yet been named, Fuhr said he would love to see an event in Edmonton, where he had the majority of his NHL success.

“It’s a big hockey city,” Fuhr said of the Alberta capital. “Any hockey would go over well there.”

Fuhr appeared in a total of 1,018 NHL games. Besides Edmonton he also suited up for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames.

The 3ICE season will run from June through August.

E.J. Johnston, the league’s CEO, said 120 players will be invited to the 3ICE tryouts, expected to be held in late February next year. Pittsburgh has been mentioned as a possible location for those tryouts.

All of the 3ICE coaches will attend those tryouts. A league draft will be held following the tryouts.

“Our players are going to be ex-NHLers,” Johnston said. “They’ve left the league within the last 20 months. They can’t be under an NHL contract or an (American Hockey League) contract. They’ll look at this as an extension of their careers.”

Johnston added the goal is to have 3ICE tournaments contested in some huge rinks.

“We want to be in NHL buildings, AHL buildings and hockey hungry markets,” he said. “Quebec City is a great example of a hockey hungry market. And Halifax is an example of that as well.”

Besides Trottier and Fuhr, four other individuals in the Hockey Hall of Fame, will also serve as 3ICE coaches. They are Guy Carbonneau, Larry Murphy, Joe Mullen and Angela Ruggiero, an American who participated in the Winter Olympics four times.

Former NHLers John LeClair and Ed Johnston, E.J.’s father, will also coach in the league.

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