It went well under the radar on Monday, but CBS Sports has officially entered the hockey market. The network has obtained the rights to 3ICE, a new hockey league that will begin play next summer.
The league is completely different than anything we have seen before. It will be a three-on-three league that takes after Ice Cube’s “Big3” basketball league, which also airs on the CBS Sports Network.
The league will feature eight teams with six skaters and one goalie on the roster. Each team will have a coach and there will be nine tour stops in nine different cities. The event will start in summer 2021.
The rules are vastly different too. Each game will consist of two eight-minute periods that have running clocks.
“No penalties, only penalty shots. No long intermissions. Just pure excitement,” said 3ICE commissioner Craig Patrick. Patrick is the former General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and also served as an assistant coach on Team USA’s 1980 Olympic team.
The league is hoping that the player base will include former NHL’ers from the ages of 27-32. They look to, per the official release from 3ICE, players like Conor Sheary of the Buffalo Sabres to be their prototype.
3ICE wants to feature the speed and skill of hockey. In theory, it sounds great. The game is completely different at 3-on-3, however. Sure, it is fun for an overtime period, but are people going to invest in a product that is, quite frankly, a gimmick? And how come sponsors are willing to flock to it and a major network like CBS is willing to give it air time?
Disrespectful To The Women’s Game
CBS has already put women’s hockey on the back-burner. Earlier this fall, the network agreed to a contract with Hockey East to air games on the new “CBS All Access” streaming service. Every game featured was a men’s game. The women were relegated to the lesser “Sportslive”, which is difficult to find yet still behind a paywall.
CBS Sports agreeing to air a gimmick men’s league over a year away, while continuing to ignore the efforts of the PWHPA and NWHL is, quite frankly, a joke.
You would think CBS would have learned from their extremely successful venture with the AAF a season ago that there isn’t an appetite for gimmicky men’s leagues that are looking to capitalize on the down time between seasons. Hell, that league folded in the middle of the season, and viewership never really got off the ground for the decidedly lesser product.
If a second, lesser football league couldn’t work, what the hell makes people think 3ICE will be successful? Football is much more popular throughout the United States, and even it couldn’t survive in a secondary league format. How will a niche sport like hockey do it?
Are we rooting for 3ICE to fail? No, I wouldn’t wish that on them because so much hard work, time and effort goes into building a league.
That said, it is a slap in the face to women’s hockey to see this kind of product get a TV contract with a major network right away.
Consider the fact that there isn’t a single NWHL game available on TV, even though the league is in its fifth season. Sure, the effort to get every game on Twitch has helped the product become more visible, but don’t you think a TV contract would push it even further?
What about the “Dream Gap Tour”? There isn’t a single network that broadcasts these events in the US or Canada. There are only online streams. That isn’t going to cut it, especially if the goal is to create more awareness for the PWHPA’s mission.
It’s one thing to have people in the building on a nightly basis, but the only way to keep building the women’s hockey product is to continue creating exposure. The online streams are nice and all, but isn’t it time a network stepped up?
CBS Sports had the perfect opportunity to do this. Instead, they settled on a gimmicky summer league that is over a year away and has no guarantee of surviving. It is an immensely disappointing development. It is one that should piss the people working in women’s hockey off.
Whether or not you side with the PWHPA or NWHL really doesn’t matter in this case. The fact that women’s hockey has again been passed over should sting. It shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.
If gimmicky men’s leagues, cornhole and spikeball have a place on networks like CBS Sports, ESPN and NBCSN, why can’t women’s hockey?
Enough is enough already. Step up already. Help the game grow. Help these women achieve their goals.