Dunkin’ Donuts has joined the fledgling 3ICE hockey league as one of its main sponsors in an unspecified six-figure deal for this season.
The new league, which opened June 18, is a 3-on-3 extravaganza, played in a six-team, every-weekend tournament format. Each game is 16 minutes split into two eight-minute periods, and teams are coached by former National Hockey League players Grant Fuhr, Brian Trottier, Joe Mullen, Guy Carbonneau, John LeClair and Larry Murphy. The teams are all named after the coaches.
“This 3ICE has been fun,” Fuhr, a former four-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie with the Edmonton Oilers, said in a telephone interview. “3-on-3 is enjoyable. It’s the exciting part of hockey.”
For Dunkin’ the marketing relationship was a natural extension of its long-term sponsorship deal with the NHL. Dunkin’ joined companies such as Bitcasino, Verbero, OFX and Heart Water as founding mid-range 3ICE sponsors.
“Over the last two years we evolved a foundational partnership with the NHL and the line, ‘Where there’s hockey, there’s Dunkin’,’” Keith Lusby, vice president of media and partnerships for Dunkin’, said in a phone interview. “We just feel embedded into the hockey culture and love how this idea of 3ICE came about.”
The 3ICE concept was inspired by the five-minute, 3-on-3 sudden death overtime in the NHL regular season and the All-Star format.
In this case, there’s one initial face-off, and the puck remains in play when it hits the netting above the glass and behind the goals. There are no line shifts; individual players leave the ice for another skater when they are fatigued. And a tie game is settled by a first-goal, sudden-death breakaway shootout.
“It’s a very fast-paced product,” said LeClair, the former Philadelphia forward who played on a high-production line with Eric Lindros and Mikal Renberg. “So far it’s far exceeded my expectations.”
One of those one-and-done shootout goals from last Saturday’s tournament in Grand Rapids, Mich.—a spin move by Brandon Hawkins, which led Team LeClair to victory—was No. 1 on ESPN’s top 10 plays this weekend.
The league will make eight regular-season stops this summer—along with Grand Rapids, the tournament has already been played in Las Vegas and Denver—and the tickets average about $35.
“We built this for two reasons,” 3ICE chief executive and founder E.J. Johnston said in a phone interview. “Getting it out there to let fans grow our brand and entertain as many people as possible, and to build a business platform for as many sponsors as possible.”
Craig Patrick—former all-time great NHL player, coach and general manager—is 3ICE’s head of hockey operations out of the corporate offices in Pittsburgh and was charged with implementing the on-ice product.
The season will end Aug. 20 back at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas with a four-team playoff tournament televised live on CBS. The earlier tournaments are available to watch on the CBS Network streaming service.
That media component, plus the staging of the season during the summer, also fit well with a current Dunkin’ promotion schedule, Lusby said.
“Our marketing campaigns this summer are all centered around [the slogan] ‘Dunkin’ is your home for ice beverages,’” he said. “It just all came together really well.”