Eamon McAdam might get some answers this weekend.
The former Waterloo Black Hawks goaltender will be part of a new summer hockey league which takes the ice for the first time on Saturday in Las Vegas. 3ICE will include stops in NHL cities like Denver, Pittsburgh, and Nashville before the schedule wraps up in late August. Among the unique aspects of this new circuit, games will be played three-on-three, like an extended overtime. The six participating teams are each coached by a former NHL star. They will meet in a playoff-like bracket every weekend.
McAdam knows all that. What he doesn’t know is exactly how he was picked to be the goalie for Larry Murphy’s squad.
“I’m actually interested to ask that question to Larry,” McAdam says. “I've spoken to him a few times over e-mail…but I'm interested to see why he did pick me. It's always kind of interesting to see how people look at hockey and stats, and if they've seen you some time prior…I haven't been told why I stood out of the crowd.”
News that McAdam had been selected for Murphy’s seven-member team was not totally out-of-the-blue. This spring, the 27-year-old was playing in Denmark when he first heard about 3ICE.
“My agent reached out to me and said there was an opportunity with this new startup league, and it could be some really good publicity. I was in season, so I wasn't able to make the tryout dates, but there was still an opportunity to put my name on the list and hope that I got picked off of a resume alone. Then I got a phone call towards the end of the regular season and was told that I was drafted.”
McAdam’s background is similar to many of the other 3ICE players. He made his Waterloo debut in January of 2011 and was 30-18-3 with two shutouts by the time he played his final junior game in 2013. That record does not include being named the competition’s top goalie when Waterloo traveled to the 2012 Junior Club World Cup. McAdam’s time with the Hawks led to being drafted by the New York Islanders in the summer of 2013.
From the Cedar Valley, McAdam moved on to Happy Valley and three winters at Penn State. Signing his first pro contract in the spring of 2016, the Philadelphia area netminder covered a lot of ground in the seasons that followed: Bridgeport, Toronto, Binghamton, and Lehigh Valley in the AHL, plus Missouri, Worcester, Newfoundland, Adirondack, and Jacksonville in the ECHL. This season was his first in Europe.
With the 40ish other 3ICE players, there is a fair chance the group has collectively played in every active AHL and ECHL city at some point, with a smattering of NHL experience mixed in too. For McAdam, 3ICE means a reunion with a couple of former teammates.
“Griffin Molino - who I believe played in the USHL at some point [with Sioux Falls and Muskegon] - I had known him from back at New York Islanders camps, and then I played with him in Toronto,” McAdam remembers. “I’m in the same boat with a guy named Chris Mueller, who was a bit older, a Michigan State guy, but he was also on the team in Toronto when I was there.”
Players at every level of the game, from youth to the NHL, typically participate in some form of summer hockey, but McAdam knows this experience will be different.
“Usually you're getting into the gym and you're putting your work in on the ice to train, but it's just not quite the same. It's always different when you get on the ice, and that first puck drops. You take it to a whole different level, so to try and keep that intensity throughout the summer, it's going to be a bit of a learning curve.”
The three-on-three format of 3ICE will give skilled forwards and defensemen plenty of room to show off their offensive abilities. McAdam and his fellow goalies will also have plenty of opportunity, although based on three-on-three overtimes during recent seasons, plus special events like the NHL All-Star Game, the success rate is likely to be lower for any goalie in the format.
“It's supposed to be a really fast, flowing league,” says McAdam. “It's going to be very quick paced, and - I'm sure - high scoring, which obviously doesn't really play into my wheelhouse is a goalie, but that's part of it and I'm just happy to be a part of it.
“I've always found myself to be a little bit more of an athletic and crazy goalie in the net, so I think maybe it actually might play in my favor. You're not probably expected to make a ton of saves, but then if you have a really good outing when you're super dialed in, it might stand out.”
McAdam may have to rely on himself to a greater degree in the 16-minute matchups. Not only will he have fewer teammates to help protect then net, there also will be less time to build a rapport with them.
“We're going to fly out on a Friday and get a practice in with the team,” McAdam noted about the schedule which will repeat itself weekend after weekend, “And then Saturday is game day.”
After so much time in pro hockey, there are several destinations McAdam is looking forward to, even with a whirlwind travel schedule. He says he has never been to Vegas, but there are a few other stops he knows well, like Hershey, Pennsylvania near his hometown.
“[And] London, Ontario, is right outside of where my girlfriend is from, so it's great. I'll get to catch up with her family and spend time with them. I'm thrilled to have a big crowd for that one. And Nashville is always a good time.”
With his summer schedule aligned to the game schedule, plus the work needed for a goalie to play at a high level, McAdam has had plenty to think about, and that has meant a different level of attention regarding next fall and whether he will be back in Europe or elsewhere.
“It's a little bit up in the air. I've had a few looks with different teams, but I’m just trying to keep the door open.”
As McAdam already learned by being picked to play in 3ICE, you never know who’s watching or when you might have the chance to impress them.
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