By: Emma Glasgow & Elise Derksen

Recently, USA Hockey for the first time used NHL-level analytics to track under 8 amateur hockey players during both full-ice and cross-ice competition. The study outlined multiple benefits of a reduced playing surface known as cross-ice, that included better spacing, increased skill development and more direct competition. Much like cross-ice hockey, 3×3 basketball holds many similar benefits in order to successfully build fundamentals of all participants in the learning to train stage and in developmentally appropriate competition. Though we encourage you to watch the full video, here is a breakdown and comparison of the benefits of cross-ice hockey and 3×3 basketball.

1. More Touches
Puck Touches:Player

In cross-ice hockey, players were 2x more likely to touch the puck. The same is true for 3×3 basketball. Players are far more likely to touch the ball.

Cross-ice hockey analytics show that players were 6x more likely to take a shot than in full-ice games. In 3×3, the reduced number of players on the court allows for more opportunities to shoot, providing more meaningful touches on the ball.

Shots:PlayerNot only were players more likely to take shots, but they were more likely to make a pass in cross-ice hockey. Though passing is the most exhibited skill in 5×5 basketball, it is often from putting the ball back into play from out-of-bounds. These passing attempts are often unsuccessful and result in yet another out-of-bounds play or a turnover. 3×3 basketball provides more opportunities for player-to-player passes while maintaining possession of the ball.

This statistic is also true of cross-ice hockey. In cross-ice players were 5x more likely to receive a pass than in full ice. This equates to the passer being 5x more likely to display a successful pass. The same is true for 3×3 basketball; as previously stated, passes are more often successful resulting in not just more touches on the ball, but more meaningful touches on the ball.

2. Better Spacing
Pass Attempts:PlayerIn cross-ice hockey, players exhibited more “short 5-foot puck support passes when you open it up to the full-ice game what you really see is 1 on 1 hockey”. This is a quote from a USA Hockey Coach on both his observation of game-play and the statistics. Though the spacing in hockey differs from the spacing in basketball, both modifications (reduced space vs. reduced players) provide better spacing. This results in more opportunity to exhibit the fundamentals of each participant and his respective sport. In the video, the players and stats describe more puck battles and body contact which are favourable to hockey and its skill development.  Whereas in 3×3 basketball, reduced players result in more space and less contact, creating better opportunities for decision making and skill development.

3. Skills Actions
Passes Received:PlayerCross-ice hockey focuses heavily on development rather than systems. Having a smaller playing space allows for an increase in fundamental skills that are key to each player’s success in short-term and long-term development. When speaking about scoring chances, one participant claims “I didn’t score on full ice because I didn’t pass the puck and they didn’t pass it either”. The one-on-one mentality is extremely pervasive and developmentally harmful to all participants in terms of their opportunities to exhibit skills like shooting and passing. By reducing the playing space, the same child describes a successful scoring opportunity simply because both passing and shooting were more likely to occur. In 3×3 basketball, provides the same outcome by reducing the number of players to allow maximal competition experience and playing time during the developmental age. 3×3 preserves the integrity of basketball skills while allowing more opportunities for each player like the cross-ice hockey approach.  Both cross-ice hockey and 3×3 basketball are player-oriented and developmentally appropriate for the Learn to Train stages.

4. More Direct Competition

“The stats for cross-ice hockey are more similar to NHL stats” ~ USA Hockey Coach

This quote displays that cross-ice hockey looks and feels to participants more like NHL level competition than full-ice games. The frequency of puck battles, body contact, shots and passes are more akin to that an NHL player would experience. If the competition exhibits the characteristics of arguably the highest level of competition in the sport of hockey then the experience is  maximizing the fundamental development of each player. In 3×3 basketball the games are shorter in duration but more frequent, allowing players to face multiple opponents in one competition day.  The number of players is reduced, allowing for maximal competition experience and playing time during this developmental stage. Though the game may not look like a 5-on-5 NBA game, but the frequency of skills exhibited is more similar to a player at the highest level of competition.

In conclusion, cross-ice is a fantastic demonstration as to how making small adaptations to a given sport can have multiple benefits to young participants. Both cross-ice hockey and 3×3 basketball maintain the integrity of both sports to ensure a more player-oriented, developmentally appropriate level of competition. Both provide optimal competition and opportunity for successful development and growth. Canada Basketball hopes to move all competition at the Learn to Train stage to the 3×3 model. Just like in cross-ice hockey, every player will benefit from 3×3 basketball, but the most advanced players will benefit the most.

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