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Mythbusters: Modified Game Play

By Michael Dundas, Manager, Hockey Development, 11/11/20, 4:15PM EST


Answering some misconceptions about 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 hockey

Photo Credit: Krystal Klear Photography

The action at the rink has looked different this season. Playing under the OHF Return to Hockey Framework, we’ve all had to make adjustments to keep everyone safe. Modified game play is being implemented in either a 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 format and although this breaks from tradition, the focus of the game remains the same: fun, skill development and teamwork in a safe environment.

There are some misconceptions about 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 hockey. We have identified some of them and explain why this development year is important for all athletes.


This isn’t traditional 5-on-5 competition; however, it is still the game of hockey. Many teams at the professional level use small area games and variations of 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 scenarios in practice to keep their skills sharp. The fundamentals of the sport are still there – skating, passing and shooting happen more frequently.

Players will gain confidence in their ability through increased skill repetition in a game-like setting. This experience is something they can carry with them throughout their future in minor hockey regardless of the format.


Modified hockey provides players with a different perspective of the game. Every player needs to be involved at both ends of the ice. They have an increased responsibility to support their teammates or risk being outnumbered. Awareness grows on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck and players will gain a new understanding of how this translates to traditional 5-on-5 hockey.

With more open ice, there will be an increased emphasis on fundamental skills and execution. Players will skate more, have more puck touches and be engaged in every situation on the ice. Goalies will also need to be more engaged throughout games as transitional play will be frequent and scoring opportunities will occur more often. 


Kids are back at the rink being physically active and socializing with their teammates. They are playing the game they love after months of social distancing and limited activities.

3-on-3 and 4-on-4 hockey increases player engagement which contributes to a more positive experience for the player.  In the end, ask any player if they’d rather be sitting at home instead of being on the ice.  

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Michael Dundas is the Manager, Hockey Development at the OMHA and has over 10 years of instructional and coaching experience working with athletes from U7 to U18.

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