London 3’s Crowned Champions of 3 on 3 Pro Hockey

Originally published by Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press

True to their name, the London 3’s are the undisputed kings of “overtime, all the time” hockey.

The first-year 3-on-3 team representing the Forest City claimed the upstart 3HL’s $15,000 Champions Cup event this past weekend in Oshawa, capping a curious four-month, Ontario-based tour of eight clubs.

“It was a pretty good way to spend a Saturday afternoon,” said Charlie Stephens, the former Knight and first overall Ontario Hockey League pick 20 years ago.

The 3’s won three straight games in a bracket-style format. They took their first two, fittingly enough, in overtime — Paddy Morgan popped home the quarterfinal winner over the Newmarket Saints and Luke Baleshta, from Cambridge, provided the semifinal decider against the Milton Flyers.

London topped the Guelph Brewers 5-1 in the championship tilt. The players split $7,000 in earnings.

The 3HL is the brainchild of Justin Fox, who hopes to expand the circuit — along with boosted purses, sponsorship and on-ice talent — next season. There was supposed to be a tour stop at Budweiser Gardens this year, but it was cancelled.

“It’s a fun event and you get pretty good bang for your buck,” Stephens said. “You get to watch (the whole event) in about the same time as a professional hockey game (two and a half to three hours). When the NHL switched to 3-on-3 overtime, that’s the basis of how (Fox) started it.

“It’s exciting to see the 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s. That’s what it’s all about.”

Each game features two seven-minute halves, with a minute intermission break in between. There are no offsides or icings and the only faceoffs happen after a goal is scored or if the puck goes out of play.

Penalties, which are fairly rare, result in penalty shots.

Stephens, who played senior A hockey in Brantford this season, is the only player on the team from London. The 3’s included Matt Foy, a former Minnesota Wild forward and ex-OHL scoring star in Ottawa, and the MVP was Port Hope goalie Rich Wigmore, the club’s captain.

“We’re called the London 3’s, but you don’t necessarily have to be from here because everything is tournament-based,” Stephens said. “It’s cool and new. (Fox) has got a lot of good ideas. He wants to grow the pot.

“His vision is that it will be like the PGA — a tournament on the weekend and (a big purse).”

The plan is to put managers in place for each team to build awareness and sponsorship opportunities. Since it’s a tour, the league is starting from scratch at nearly every venue.

Stephens took part in three events, including the championship, this season. He would be happy to do it again.

“I have three kids, a wife, dog and a couple of cats,” he said, “so when I’m able to play, I would. It’s about the product on the ice and there were five or six teams in the standings where every game was close.

“I think there’s a market for it. There’s nowhere to go but up for (Fox) and the league.”

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