By: Jamie Bennett
On April 1, the 3HL stopped at The Plex in Port Elgin, Ontario. The 3HL, which is the brainchild of 38-year-old Founder and CEO Justin Fox, is a traveling professional hockey league that consists of eight teams, the: Guelph Brewers, Kitchener Lions, London 3’s, Markham Millionaires, Milton Flyers, Newmarket Saints, Oshawa 88’s and Toronto Bees. The tournament in Port Elgin was known as the Sunset Cup.
The league is in the midst of its inaugural season, having held their first tournament on January 1, 2017. Loosely based on the three-on-three format overtime format of the National Hockey League, Fox said “the idea came from, as a sports fan, hockey fan, I was watching the NHL overtime when they launched it two years ago and thought the three-on-three format was exciting and essentially thought, why couldn’t we make a pro league that’s all three-on-three?”
The league consists of a variety of players recruited through various means including: a draft, recruitment by players and province-wide tryouts. Players that compete in the 3HL have past experience in leagues such as the: CHL, AHL and NHL amongst several others. According to Fox, the first overall pick in the draft was former NHL forward Rich Peverley, who he said has “had some conversations about potentially joining the Guelph team.”
Fox said in this league “you have to perform to earn.” Each win in the first and second round earns the team two thousand dollars. Winning the final earns the team three thousand dollars. The total adds up to a seven thousand dollar purse for the championship team at each tournament.
The Kris Barclay Band provided live music for the event, playing a variety of songs including hits by The Eagles and Queen.
There was also a family skate prior to the tournament.
Fox said Brett MacLean and Theo Peckham were integral to having the tournament come to Port Elgin. MacLean and his brother Miles are from Port Elgin and Peckham plays for the hometown Saugeen Winterhawks. “I think it’s awesome to get to play in your home town” MacLean said. “I never thought I’d get the opportunity to play high-level hockey here” he stated, adding that Port Elgin is a “great hockey town.”
The Winterhawks, who are four-time WOAA (Western Ontario Athletic Association as defined by the WOAA website) Sr. AA champions, played in a “play-in” game against Kitchener, which they lost in overtime. After the first game, Winterhawks President Gord Lamont described the 3HL style of play as “really cool” and called it “fast hockey” and “good hockey to watch.”
Shortly after the play-in game was completed, the tournament was ready to get to the money rounds. The first game was between the Toronto Bees and the Newmarket Saints. Toronto was able to keep Newmarket’s score-sheet clean with a 3-0 shutout.
The next game saw the tournament’s top money team, the Milton Flyers, who have collected 23 thousand dollars in money earnings so far, and a 10-2 record, take on the Oshawa 88’s. Milton was able to continue their winning ways with a 2-1 win.
Former NHLers MacLean and Peckham, as well as the other members of the Guelph Brewers took on the Markham Millionaires in the third game. This game would turn out to be the highest scoring game of the day, with the Brewers taking it 9-1.
The final game of the preliminary round saw the London 3’s take on the Kitchener Lions. The 3’s were able to top the already-seasoned Lions by a score of 4-1.
Toronto was able to keep their second straight opponent to a clean sheet in the second game, with goaltender David Blair picking up his second straight shutout, topping Milton 3-0. Blair overcame a mid-game injury to continue playing and pick-up the win.
In the second game of the second round, the Brewers fought back against an early lead by the3’s, with Peckham scoring the overtime goal to book a ticket to the final with a 5-4 win.
The final saw the high scoring Brewers take on the shutout streaking Bees. In an ironic turn of events, it was the Brewers who would post a shutout with a 5-0 win. The goals were scored by: Joe Underwood, Matt Kennedy (2), Greg Cerilli and Brett Mackie.
The full roster of the champion Brewers were: Vinny Merante (G), Ken Peroff, Greg Virgo, Cerilli, Kennedy, Mackie, Peckham and the MacLean brothers.
Peckham was named MVP after the completion of the final. “He’s awesome. He’s been a great player” said MacLean. “You don’t play 160 games in the NHL without having amazing talent. I think sometimes people don’t appreciate it because he’s a fighter, but when he comes out here he makes amazing plays” the Brewers’ captain added. MacLean called Peckham their “leader all day” and said “he really stepped up.”
When it came to playing in their hometown, MacLean said of his brother and himself “It’s great. We’ve played all over the place. I’ve played all over Ontario, played in Texas, Arizona, Winnipeg, but never got to play in front of my friends and family like I did today.”
The next tournament is the final, known as the Champion’s Cup and will be held in Oshawa at the Tribute Community Centre on May 6.