Minor ice hockey
Minor hockey is an umbrella term for amateur ice hockey which is played below the junior age level. Players are classified by age, with each age group playing in its own league. The rules, especially as it relates to body contact, vary from class to class. In North America, the rules are governed by the national bodies, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey, while local hockey associations administer players and leagues for their region. Many provinces and states organize regional and provincial championship tournaments, and the highest age groups in Canada also participate in national championships.
To qualify in a category, the player must be under the age limit as of December 31 of the current season.
- Initiation: under 5 years of age AKA Hockey 1 and Hockey 2 and previously known as Mite and Tyke respectively.
- Novice (Mite): under 7 years of age AKA Hockey 3 and Hockey 4
- Atom (Squirt): under 9 years of age
- Peewee: under 11 years of age
- Bantam: under 13 years of age
- Midget: under 15 years of age
- Juvenile under 18 years of age (18-20), for players who want to remain in hockey at a minor hockey association level. Those not playing Junior or playing Senior.
- Junior: under 21 years of age Junior: divided into Major Junior (WHL, OHL and QMJHL), Junior A (Tier II Junior), Junior B and Junior C (in some locations).
- Senior: no age limit
There are two broad grouping of skill levels: competitive and non-competitive. From house league/recreation hockey, progression is made to competitive travel hockey. A competitive team will hold tryouts and players will be selected for the roster depending upon skill level and fit. At this level, players chosen to compete experience a higher level of on-ice competition and coaching. Players learn systems; coaches maximize his/her potential and train them to work together as a unit.
- HL ("House League") teams are intra-city and players may be of any skill level.
- Rostered Select teams will consist of better House League players who in addition to HL play, will play in additional games and practices which are organized on an ad-hoc basis.
- League Select teams will consist of better House League Players but can also play in a league for a full season in addition to the House League Season. This is also known as Minor Development in some areas.
Higher-skilled players will typically play on "representative" or "travel" teams that will travel to play representative (rep) teams from other areas. These teams are classified by skill. Not all cities will have teams at all skill levels, depending on size and the popularity of hockey, however even small communities may field teams at multiple levels. (For example: Orillia, Ontario, with a population of 30,000, has four distinct skill divisions for 7-year-olds.) The classifications are typically not certified by any external organization, so there is speculation about what levels are truly better or stronger than others. AAA, AA, and A hockey are nationally recognized as competitive levels of organized hockey, with AAA being elite competition. The competitive level players generally engage in high levels of physical play from a young age. This physical play can lead to injuries and most often these are related to the head. Injuries have become more prevalent as physical play has increased in the sport.
- 'House Level' Inter Association hockey never leaving own association
- 'C' Playing other associations in a region.
- 'AAA' is the highest caliber of minor hockey
All other Rep teams (Atom to Juvenile) are exclusively inter association under the guidance of PCAHA (Pacific Coast), OMAHA (Okanagan), VIAHA (Island), and are labeled as A1, A2, A3, and A4. No Atom level Provincial championship exist as Atom is considered developmental and non competitive.
The Minor Hockey Associations of BC Hockey shall be categorized as A, and designated by the following tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4. For the purposes of affiliation regulations, each Tier designation will be considered a category.
BC Hockey Registrations of male Midget, Bantam and Pee Wee players from the previous three (3) years with the Associations tiers are determined the according to the following schedule:
|Average Registration of Male Midget, Bantam & PeeWee Players||Designation|
|300 and greater||Tier 1|
|Less than 300, greater than or equal to 175||Tier 2|
|Less than 175, greater than or equal to 80||Tier 3|
|Less than 80||Tier 4|
The above chart shall be utilized to determine the tier of the “initial entry” team at each division (i.e. the association’s top Midget, Bantam and PeeWee team). 1.03 a) Associations may register additional teams in any Division in accordance with the following chart:
|Association Designation||Second Entry Team||Third Entry Team||Fourth Entry Team|
|Tier 1||Tier 2||Tier 3||Tier 4|
|Tier 2||Tier 3||Tier 4||Tier 4|
|Tier 3||Tier 4||Tier 4||Tier 4|
|Tier 4||Tier 4||Tier 4||Tier 4|
b) Any association registering more than two hundred and fifty (250) players in any Age division of Peewee, Bantam, Midget and Juvenile shall be required to register teams in that division in accordance with the following chart:
First Entry, Second Entry Team Must register two Tier 1 teams Third Entry Team Tier 2 Fourth Entry Team Tier 3 Fifth Entry Team Tier 4
1.04 All Winter Clubs are designated Tier 1. This designation is to be reviewed annually by the BC Hockey Executive Committee following consultation with the District Association.
Quebec house leagues are labeled C, B, A. Competitive teams are labeled "Double Letters" CC, BB, AA, until Bantam (body checking starts only in "Double Letter" Bantam). Midget offers AAA and Espoir (only 15-year-olds) as the highest levels.
In Finland, the Finnish Ice Hockey Association roughly categorizes minor hockey players to under school-ages and school-ages. Children over 16 are considered as juniors, although the youngest juniors are still at the school-age. Minor and junior hockey levels are:
- G- and F-minors (age 11 and younger)
- E-minors (ages 12 to 13)
- D-minors (ages 14 to 15)
- C-juniors (age 16 and younger)
- B-juniors (age 18 and younger)
- A-juniors (age 20 and younger)
- Moustiques (age 9 and younger)
- Poussins (ages 10–11)
- Benjamins (ages 12–13)
- Minimes (ages 14–15)
- Cadets (ages 16–18)
In Germany, German Ice Hockey Federation designates the following levels:
- Kleinstschüler (Bambini) (ages 9 and younger)
- Kleinschüler (ages 11 and younger)
- Knaben (ages 13 and younger)
- Schüler (ages 15 and younger)
- Jugend (ages 17 and younger)
- Junioren (ages 19 and younger)
All levels are administrated by the respective sub-federation in each province except for the federal leagues which are administrated directly by the German Ice Hockey Federation. Ages were raised in 2010/2011.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation designates the following levels:
- U9 (ages 9 and younger)
- U10 (ages 10 and younger)
- U11 (ages 11 and younger)
- U12 (ages 12 and younger)
- U13 (ages 13 and younger)
- U14 (ages 14 and younger)
- U15 (ages 15 and younger)
- U16 (ages 16 and younger)
- J18 (Juniors 18 and younger)
- J20 (Juniors 20 and younger)
Some levels (especially J18 and J20) are directly administrated by the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, while lower divisions of the Juniors and below are administrated by the respective sub-federation in each landskap.
- Bambini (9 and under), Italian for "children"
- Piccolo (11 and under), Italian for "little"
- Moskito (13 and under), German for "mosquito"
- Mini (15 and under), Latin for "small"
- Novizen, Novices, or Novizi (18 and under), meaning "Novices"
- Junioren, Juniors or Juniores (20 and under), meaning "Juniors"
- Mite (ages 8 & under) (Levels AA, A, B)
- Squirt (ages 9–10) (Levels AAA, AA, A, B, C)
- Peewee (ages 11–12) (Levels AAA, AA, A, B, C)
- Bantam (ages 13–14) (Levels AAA, AA, A, B, C)
- Midget Minor 16 and Under (ages 15–16) (Levels AAA, AA, junior varsity high school-A)
- Midget Major 18 and Under (ages 15–18) (Levels AAA, AA, varsity high school-AA and AAA)
- Junior (ages 16 to 20) (Cut-off age varies depending on the league)
Many organizations and leagues that have larger numbers of registered players tend to delineate within the two year window allowed for each age group. In these situations, teams composed entirely or primarily of players in their second year of eligibility are designated 'major' teams, while those with players in their 1st year of eligibility are designated 'minor' teams. (For example, ten year olds would be 'squirt majors' while nine year olds would be 'squirt minors.') This is especially true in "AAA".
Some leagues separate players six years old and younger into their own group, often referred to using names like "Mini-Mites," "Mosquitoes," or "Microns."
USA Hockey designates four skill levels:
Tier 1: The Highest Level of Competition, commonly called "AAA", following the Canadian system.
Tier 2: The Next Higher Level of Competition, commonly called "AA" or "A", following the Canadian system.
Tier 3: The Next Higher Level of Competition (Not all districts use this designation), may also be called "A", the lowest level of competitive hockey.
Recreational/Developmental: Includes House League and Select (House All-Star) Teams. May be called "B", "C", etc.
The Amateur Athletic Union has returned to licensing the sport of Ice Hockey.
During recent years, the AAU has sanctioned several High School Varsity, Junior Varsity and Middle School leagues within the state of New York.
During the 2011-2012 season the AAU began licensing Junior and youth leagues as well. The Western States Hockey League (WSHL) moved their operations from USA Hockey into AAU and Hockey Michigan was formed, providing Mite (8&under) conventional full-ice playing opportunities in the face of cross-ice mandates adopted by the USA Hockey district affiliate. During the 2012-2013 season, AAU Junior and Youth operations have been expanding rapidly and currently span coast to coast.
Although some AAU clubs still use classification terms such as Mites-Midgets, the more correct AAU youth designations are:
- 6U (ages 6 and younger)
- 7U (ages 7 and younger)
- 8U (ages 8 and younger)
- 9U (ages 9 and younger)
- 10U (ages 10 and younger)
- 11U (ages 11 and younger)
- 12U (ages 12 and younger)
- 13U (ages 13 and younger)
- 14U (ages 14 and younger)
- 15U (ages 15 and younger)
- 16U (ages 16 and younger)
- 17U (ages 17 and younger)
- 18U (ages 18 and younger)
Officials for youth hockey are often youth players themselves, calling games in lower levels than the one they participate in themselves. Just as players start out playing youth hockey, officials start their officiating career officiating youth hockey, making it up through the ranks as their officiating skill increases. USA Hockey defines certain levels of their officials and so does Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Currently, many youth officials quit after a few games, mainly due to verbal abuse from parents, coaches and players. In the US and Canada, news stories pop up from now and then that describes physical abuse on youth officials, in addition to verbal abuse. These problems were addressed in Hockey Canada's "Relax, it's just a game"-campaign, which started in 2002.
A youth official can usually move up the ladder to juniors after about 2 years of officiating, and after a few years more up to senior hockey. This is of course, just as with players, different for each individual as their skill-curves are differently shaped.
Many current and former officials feel that their officiating career has aided them in their professional life as well, being more comfortable with handling critical decisions and upset individuals. The combinations of CEO or lower-level boss along with being an official and police officer along with officiating is quite common in many countries.
- "Skills Development: Initiation – Player Development Essentials". Hockey Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- "Skills Development: Novice – Player Development Essentials". Hockey Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- "Skills Development: Atom – Player Development Essentials". Hockey Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- "Skills Development: Peewee – Player Development Essentials". Hockey Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- "Skills Development: Bantam – Player Development Essentials". Hockey Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- "Skills Development: Midget – Player Development Essentials". Hockey Canada. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- "Canadian Development Model: Parent Information Handbook". Hockey Canada. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
- Juniorikiekon ideologia Finnish Ice Hockey Association (Finnish)
- "Youth & Girls Hockey". USAHockey. Retrieved 4 June 2015.