The International Rise of the 3-on-3 Game

When you think of ball hockey, chances are you think of the traditional 5-on-5 game. That makes sense, given that the prevalence of this mode of play. The biggest tournaments in both ball and ice hockey are generally played with five players on either team, but recently there has been a surge in popularity for games consisting of a total of six players. There could be a few reasons for the rising interest levels of 3-on-3 ball hockey games. Spectators could find the matches more exciting, as with the reduced player count, each player needs to be that much more alert. Players could be looking for new challenges, and with only two teammates plus a goalie on your side, they would certainly find it in a 3-on-3 game.

In an effort to find out exactly why interest levels in 3-on-3 games has risen so much internationally, we sat down with Domenic DiGironimo, President of the World Ball Hockey Federation (WBHF) who has bore witness to the recent surge of 3-on-3 fervor, to ask his insight into the phenomenon.

Stick Skillz: What is the genesis of the 3-on-3 ball hockey game?

Domenic DiGironimo: The roots would be quite simply a matter of convenience, number of players available and often the limited space available, for example in Europe, the sport developed mainly in this format with play in schoolyards or gymnasiums. Even though the international game has moved to 5-on-5, there has always remained local play in Europe of the 3-on-3.

Its North American popularization in recent years stems from the promotion of touring events such as Play On! and Burrows Cup.

SS: When did the first 3-on-3 World Championship take place?

DD: The first event took place in Bratislava, November 2015.

SS: To what do you think the major interest in 3-on-3 ball hockey can be owed?

DD: From a player’s perspective it’s the ability to form teams without a large roster, as well as being constantly in the action. From a spectator’s perspective, it’s the excitement of constant offensive opportunities and its quick pace.

SS: What are the major differences in a 3-on-3 game vs. a traditional 5-on-5?

DD: 3-on-3 rules are designed to focus on flow of the game. Keep the action going!

SS: Do you expect players who are used to 5-on-5 games will come out to play in 3-on-3, or do you think there’s a segregation of players who would rather play in one or the other?

DD: 3-on-3 is an attraction for all players because it’s fun to play. I don’t see any resistance.

SS: What was the impetus for the WBHF 3-on-3 in Bratislava this year?

DD: The WBHF’s objective is to grow the sport in all formats. We are committed to providing players many opportunities to compete internationally.

SS: What level of play do you expect to see out of the 3-on-3 in Bratislava this year? Are there any new teams to watch out for, or returning powerhouses that you believe will pose a major challenge?

DD: The skill level will be very high. The Canadian teams have been extremely dominant, but you can never take the high skill level of the Americans, Czechs and Slovaks for granted.

SS: Do you expect 3-on-3 tournaments to ever supersede the prevalence of 5-on-5 games?

DD: Yes, I can see the number of 3-on-3 events increasing and surpassing 5-on-5 only because they are easier to organize, facility wise and team wise. They will always both remain as relevant formats though.

SS: Do you expect a growth in 3-on-3 or ‘non-traditional’ ball hockey formats worldwide?

DD: Yes, mainly because of the lack of full-sized arenas in most countries.

SS: What is your hope or goal for this event?

DD: As always, great sportsmanship, player enjoyment, and continued growth in the number of nations participating.


It’s clear that the interest in 3-on-3 games internationally shows no signs of slowing down, and we’re looking forward to the WBHF’s 3-on-3 tournament in Bratislava this year where we’ll hopefully see some intense matchups!

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