Why 3 on 3 Small Ice Hockey?
Both versions of 3 on3 hockey – small ice and big ice – are enjoyable to play. However, from a developmental standpoint the small ice version of 3 on 3 hockey that Cutting Edge Hockey Development Centre offers is far superior than the big ice version.
3 on 3 small ice hockey is the ultimate form of overspeed training. It forces players to do everything at a higher rate of speed than they have in the past, from skating to stickhandling, passing, shooting and making decisions, 3 on 3 small ice hockey, as a result of the reduced time and space available to each player, pushes the player out of their comfort zone, thus making them a better player.
No hockey player becomes better by playing it safe in their development and continually doing what they have always done. The best players in the world understand that they only move beyond their current level when they make themselves uncomfortable in the training process by pushing themselves to execute their skills and make decisions at higher rates of speed and under constant checking pressure.
The quickest way to stunt your development as a hockey player is to play it safe and train in an environment that allows you to have success, but doesn’t push you to become better. This is precisely what 3 on3 big ice hockey does. By increasing the amount of time and space the player has to execute their skills and make decisions the game becomes much easier to play – and thus detraining occurs.
Hockey is a game of time and space. The best players in the world are able to execute skills and make decisions at a high rate of speed and under constant checking pressure. The reason they have developed these abilities is simple – they have trained under conditions designed to bring them out of their comfort zone rather than taking the safe, simple approach.
From a conditioning standpoint, 3 on 3 small ice hockey is ideal as there is no standing around, gliding or watching the play. Every player is close to the puck and involved in the action and must always be working on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck. 3 on 3 full ice hockey, on the other hand, often has one or two players who are in close proximity to the puck while the others essentially glide around the ice watching the play and waiting for their turn to get involved.
3 on 3 small ice hockey is the ideal form of development for both the highly skilled player and the lower skilled or beginner player. The highly skilled player is pushed to do more with less time and space and the lower skilled player is much more involved in the game due to their proximity to the puck, thus offering them the opportunity to skate, stick handle, pass and shot the puck more often. This does not occur in the full ice version of 3 on 3 hockey where the game highly skilled player has all day to do what he wants and the lower skilled player is reduced to spectator status where they simply watch the highly skilled player dominate the game instead of being actively involved in the play.
More than anything, 3 on 3 small ice hockey just makes sense. When you were a kid and you played pond hockey or road hockey did you put the nets 200’ apart when you played? Of course not. The nets were not a city block apart but rather were much closer to each other. Why? To create more action and to get everyone involved in the play. 3 on 3 confined space hockey helps accomplish these goals.
This summer you have a choice. You can enjoy playing 3 on 3 hockey on the full ice, or you can enjoy playing 3 on 3 hockey on the small ice, while becoming a much better player at the same time.
3 on 3 small ice hockey also offers numerous benefits for the development of goaltenders. First, small ice 3 on 3 hockey exposes the goaltender to a wide variety of game situations including passouts to the slot area, cross crease passes, screens, deflections and a wide variety of 2 on 1 plays. This variety enhances the goaltender’s ability to read the developing play, make quick and accurate decisions, and then respond with a well coordinated plan of attack. It is not uncommon for a goaltender to receive 80 to 100 shots during a 3 on 3 on the small ice since they are always in the play and the threat of a shot on net is always possible.
3 on 3 full ice hockey, in comparison, is often characterized by one breakaway after another with little variety in the type of situations a goalie encounters during the game.
From a mental standpoint, 3 on 3 small ice hockey enhances the goaltender’s concentration skills since a shot on net is always a possibility at any time and from any location. This forces the goalie to be alert and on their toes from the drop of the puck to the final buzzer. The proximity of the puck to the net and the threat of a shot at any time does not allow the goalie to drift off into space and allow their mind to wander when the play is at the other end of the ice.
Finally, 3 on 3 small ice hockey is a form of overspeed training for the goalie as well since their ability to read and react to a shot is limited due to the close proximity of the shot release to the net, and the urgency with which the goalie must initiate their post save recovery response after making an initial save. Any form of training that forces the goaltender to move quicker to get to position, react quicker to make the save, and then recover quicker to regain optimal position is the ideal from of training. These are precisely the benefits that 3 on 3 small ice hockey provides to the goaltender.