Bryan Trottier has been an NHL coach, and the Islanders Hall of Famer knows this is not that. He’s not even sure he wants to be on a 3ICE bench past the professional three-on-three league’s inaugural season, perhaps preferring an executive role.
But Trottier is excited about 3ICE’s prospects and being a part of the new venture. The six-team league opened play on Saturday in Las Vegas and will travel to a different city each week for round-robin play through Aug. 8. The championship event will be back in Las Vegas on Aug. 20.
“There’s a whole bunch of things that make it exciting for all of us,” Trottier told Newsday on Friday before departing for Las Vegas. “The first thing is the opportunity to be involved in something as exciting as three-on-three hockey where it’s end-to-end action. People love to see it in overtime hockey at the NHL level. Then you move into the fact that you’re coaching a bunch of kids and you’re revving them up. There’s a little preparation and excitement in the involvement in that. And then, last but not least, is the fact it’s a chance to not have to dip into savings. They actually pay us for this.”
Former Rangers and Penguins coach and general manager Craig Patrick serves as the commissioner and former NHL goalie, coach and executive Ed Johnston is the deputy commissioner. But 3ICE really is the brainchild of Johnston’s son, E.J. Johnston, a former television executive who serves as 3ICE’s CEO.
It was Patrick and E.J. Johnston who convinced Trottier to be one of the league’s six coaches, along with former NHL players Guy Carbonneau, Grant Fuhr, John LeClair, Joe Mullen and Larry Murphy.
“I did not want to coach,” said Trottier, who won the last of his seven Stanley Cups as an Avalanche assistant, had a 54-game stint as the Rangers’ head coach in 2002-03 and last served in the NHL as a Sabres assistant in 2014-15 under Ted Nolan.
“I wanted to be involved on the executive side. But Craig Patrick and young E.J. Johnston kind of cajoled and urged and said for this first year, it’d be great to have you as a coach. I know what the coaching role is at the NHL level and this is not the same. This is a different kind of culture. There are not four lines running. You’re not preparing for three games a week. But it’s wonderful in the sense that you can bring your hockey mind and experiences to a role that is not as intense as the NHL but is enjoyable.
“I don’t miss coaching at all.”
Each squad, named for their coach (e.g. Team Trottier) has six skaters and one goalie and the games consist of two eight-minute halves with a running clock that stops only for penalties and injuries. There are no power plays, just penalty shots. Goalies can play the puck anywhere on the ice and play continues when pucks bounce off the protective netting behind the crease and back onto the ice. There are no coach’s challenges for offsides.
Each week will consist of three opening-round games, two semifinals and a title game.
Former Devil Bobby Farnham is the only player on Team Trottier with NHL experience. Team Carbonneau includes goalie Jeremy Brodeur, the son of Devils Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur. Team Murphy’s goalie is Eamon McAdam, whom the Islanders traded to the Maple Leafs in 2018 to reacquire Matt Martin.
Trottier is not necessarily looking at 3ICE as a chance to find a new NHL job. But he wouldn’t be opposed if the right opportunity came along.
“I do miss being involved at the NHL level,” Trottier said. “I miss the player development and the player contact. So as an assistant coach or player development. I say this with caution because I don’t want to be a 24/7 guy. But if there’s a team out there that would enjoy having my contributions. I just don’t want to be pounding on doors.”