Shorter, faster formats of traditional sports are on the rise worldwide: consider the success of 3x3 basketball, Twenty20 cricket and beach volleyball. Might 3-on-3 ice hockey be the next big thing?
As the mixed nation 3-on-3 competition at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games concluded, the competitors at the Vaudoise Arena seem to think that it might.
“My dream is to play at the Winter Olympics in 3-on-3, so I really hope it continues to grow,” said Yam Yau (HKG), who won gold in the men’s event with the green team, the first medal Hong Kong, China has won at any Winter Games. “We were very nervous before the game but we just followed our flow and we won. It feels amazing to get Hong Kong’s first winter medals.”
Red took the silver medal and brown the bronze.
In the women’s event, Luisa Wilson (MEX) also made history, winning Mexico’s first Olympic Winter medal as part of the triumphant yellow team.
“Having a gold around your neck is just an amazing feeling, and it’s great for Mexico, but this is a win for a whole team of different nations, and I love that,” she said. “We really showed up to play. 3-on-3 is great.”
Black took the silver, while the blue team beat brown to take home the bronze medal.
“I will remember this experience for the rest of my life,” said Luka Banek (CRO), who won bronze in the men’s competition with the brown team. “It’s something I’d love to see with our older guys, not just us kids. It has happened in basketball so it can happen in hockey.”
International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel (SUI) is open to the idea of 3-on-3 possibly stepping up to the Olympic Winter Games. “It’s the first time we did this kind of tournament, and it’s been a big surprise,” said Fasel. “I am a rather old guy and maybe quite conservative.
“But we would like to have 3-on-3 at Gangwon 2024 [Youth Olympic Games], and when I speak with my people in the federation, there are some that are very enthusiastic about having it at senior level. We should not be against an evolution of our sport, like basketball has done. It is a lot of fun.”
The fans inside the Vaudoise Arena concur
“3-on-3 is a marvellous idea, so I’d like to congratulate the IOC and the hockey federation for coming together and inventing this sport,” said Takashi Linzbichler, whose daughter Marja Linzbichler (AUT) played on the brown team.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for athletes that come from countries without a strong hockey tradition. I’m not sure you can do mixed NOC at the Olympic Games, because we are too used to one country against another. But 3-on-3 for nations could work well.”
Only one question remains for the new band of 3-on-3 brothers and sisters: which one of their new best mates are they going to visit first?
“I’d like to go to Australia to visit Sai [Lake],” said Banek. “I’m going to be seeing my new friend from Slovakia [Rastislav Elias],” said Matyas Sapovaliv (CZE). “I’m hoping to visit my teammate in Italy [Elisa Innocenti],” said Wilson.
Whether 3-on-3 progresses to the Olympic Winter Games or not, it has already had a major impact.