New format puts ice hockey on fast-forward

If you think ice hockey’s fast and furious enough, try 3x3 hockey.

New Zealand’s inaugural men’s 3x3 ‘Super Showdown’ — featuring three players per team, plus a goalie, slug it out for just two nine-minute periods — takes place tomorrow night and Saturday morning and evening at the Queenstown Ice Arena.

Happening during a break in the NZ Ice Hockey League (NZIHL) season, it’s designed to widen ice hockey’s appeal, similar to what T20 cricket and sevens rugby have done for those respective sports.

The tournament features nine-man squads, plus a goalie, from the six NZIHL sides including the Auckland Mako development team.

NZIHL general manager Paris Heyd says momentum around the 3x3 format’s been building overseas for a while, "so after years of talking about the possibilities of having an NZ tournament, it’s great to bring it to life".

"We hope to make it a yearly event."

Local SkyCity Stampede coach Cam Frear says it’s special Queenstown’s staging the first tourney — "you look at NZ hockey and you want to bring it somewhere where fans are passionate, and I think that’s probably why Queenstown was chosen".

"It’s definitely a good opportunity for guys to play a different form of hockey — like, quite fast-paced and lots of time and space and definitely offensive hockey."

He’s chosen a squad with six forwards and three defencemen.

"Ideally we’d send two forwards and a defenceman out. Other teams might go all offence and kind of leave the defence for the goalie — we went with a bit of balance."

Meanwhile, Stampede easily beat Mako at home last weekend in two NZIHL games, 10-0 and 11-3 — however, because they’re a development side, points don’t count.

 Long-time Stampede goalie, 53-year-old Matt Swirtz, left, celebrates with teammate Jordan...
Long-time Stampede goalie, 53-year-old Matt Swirtz, left, celebrates with teammate Jordan Challis after scoring a goal last Friday during his first game in the forward line. PHOTO: JAMES ALLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
A highlight was veteran Stampede goalie Matt Swirtz, who’s 53 and first joined the team in 2007, playing his first game as a forward and scoring a goal, too, last Friday.

"He’s been a great part of the team for a long time," Frear says, "and to still be playing hockey and involved in the team at, what, 53, is amazing."

In the women’s league, the Wakatipu Wild team travels to Christchurch this weekend for preseason games against Canterbury Inferno — puck drop 4.45pm both Saturday and Sunday.



3x3 programme

This weekend’s 3x3 ‘Super Showdown’ tournament comprises three sessions of six games each at the Queenstown Ice Arena.

The first session runs from 6.30pm till 9.30pm tomorrow — Stampede play West Auckland Admirals at 8.40pm and Botany Swarm at 9.05pm.

The second session runs from 10am till 1pm on Saturday — Stampede play Canterbury Red Devils at 10.25 and Mako at 11.30.

The final session runs from 6.30pm till 9.30pm on Saturday, commencing with the final three round-robin games — Stampede play Phoenix Thunder at 6.30pm.

The finals see the 5th- and 6th-placed teams squaring off at 8pm, 3rd v 4th at 8.40pm, then the final, 1st v 2nd, at 9.05pm.

Tickets from $15 via