Hockey has always been a game of innovation. From the first indoor rinks to the origins of the goalie mask to the first carbon fiber sticks, hockey has always improved itself through advancement. Even now, hockey looks for innovations by multiplying possible Winter Classic venues and working towards advanced tracking data in a partnership with sports betting agencies.
But some innovations go beyond improving the existing sport. Today, we are going to profile what could be the next major advancement in the hockey world. In fact, it’s an entirely new take on the sport itself, known simply as TriHockey.
What is TriHockey?
Imagine that the air hockey table you played with as a child came to life. Imagine that the puck on a hockey rink had no friction, and there were three teams and three nets instead of two. Now, imagine a game played on inline skates, with players donning futuristic, Tron-like uniforms. If you can imagine all of that, you’ve imagined TriHockey.
How does it work? It all starts with creating a life-sized air hockey surface. Technological advancements have allowed Mark Sendo, the founder and CEO of TriHockey, and his team to create an entire playing surface designed like an air hockey table. Because of this, the puck experiences no traction as it glides across the rink.
Three teams of four (one goalie, one defender, and two attackers) will battle each other on that rink in a one vs. one vs. one hockey game. They will play on a 120-foot diameter rink lined with 12-foot high inverted halfpipes, lending a unique speed and intensity to TriHockey. Think it’s a vision of the future? Sendo explained to the Hockey Writers that it has been a dream of his for a very long time.
TriHockey is actually an evolution of my initial idea that I envisioned about 22 years ago, of a human-sized air hockey rink. In early 2019, my team and I came up with a circular rink concept, with 3 teams, 3 goalie nets, and 1 puck played on an air-pressurized rink. We then worked with brilliant engineers to design and test the entire rink.Mark Sendo, Founder and CEO of TriHockey
Sendo’s team is impressive, growing from an army of one in Jan. 2019 to over 20 mostly-unpaid volunteers committed to their shared vision. Most recently, TriHockey brought in Ken Hershman, the former President of HBO Sports, to join on as the president of the future TriHockey Pro League.
The Advantages of TriHockey
Though TriHockey may seem like a distant reality, the team is hoping to debut their game at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex later this year. Hoping for an initial league of six professional teams (reminiscent of the NHL’s Original Six), TriHockey may be more attainable than it seems at first — especially for local communities.
The prohibitive costs of local ice hockey are no longer a secret. In fact, they’ve become a major concern for many in the hockey community. But Sendo believes that TriHockey addresses those issues directly, and will equip more kids to learn to love the sport.
“To refrigerate a [standard ice hockey] rink, it’s about $40,000 a month,” Sendo told us. “For our rinks, it costs $20 an hour, and when you’re not playing, you flip the switch off. The playing time is going to cost so much less.”
In addition to the lower cost of TriHockey, the pace and accessibility will be cranked up, too.
“Air hockey is such a fast sport,” Sendo said. “There will be little change if any in [the] speed of gameplay. In fact, we think TriHockey might be slightly faster. The advantage is, kids can play with sneakers, and our pros will use inline skates.”
The Future is Now
TriHockey may be the hockey of the future. But its future is a lot closer than many might think. They are hoping to secure an opportunity with Disney, though that date is not settled yet. The Hockey Writers reached out to a Disney representative for comment but were informed that company policy prohibits commenting on potential partnerships until contracts are finalized.
Whether the debut comes in August or takes a little longer, Sendo and his team are prepared. Though franchise costs will be expensive, set at five million dollars, they already have 7-10 potential franchise owners interested in investing if the sport launches successfully at Disney. They intend to build with a top-down approach, focusing on building interest in particular communities like any other professional league. 2,200-plus followers on their Facebook page are already monitoring the sport and trying to help it grow.
Fast, exciting hockey without ice may seem like an impossibility. But, then again, there was a time when the idea of building a hockey franchise in Las Vegas would have been laughable. Hockey has always thrived on transformation. And in TriHockey, it might be looking at its future.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.