For parents looking to place their children in organized hockey it is important to know the levels of hockey that youths can play at. In a hockey friendly country like Canada, children typically start playing organized hockey at age five. However this is not the case in other countries around the world.
What Are the Levels of Minor Hockey?
Let’s examine the levels of youth hockey in three great hockey countries, Canada, Sweden and the United States.
In Canada, Minor Hockey is described as amateur hockey played by athletes who are 20 years old and younger. Traditionally players are divided into playing levels according to age. In Canada, minor hockey levels and associated ages are:
Initiation – ages 5 & 6
Novice – ages 7 & 8
Atom – ages 9 & 10
Pee Wee – ages 11 & 12
Bantam – ages 13 & 14
Midget – ages 15-17
Junior / Juvenile – ages 18 & 19
In smaller towns and communities with smaller populations leagues will often combine the Mite, Mini Mite or Tiny Mites and Squirts levels into a single Initiation (or Pre-Novice) category. Furthermore players may be divided by the level of competitiveness they play at.
Non-Competitive Minor Hockey
Players play in either:
- House Leagues – intra-city where players may be of any skill level
- Select Leagues – higher skilled players who participate in additional practices and games.
Competitive Minor Hockey
Players who play more competitive hockey may play in the following leagues. These teams are sometimes referred to as “travelling teams” and consist of “better” skilled players.
- C House Level
- Junior B
- Junior A where more competitive hockey begins
- AA teams compete at major level
- AAA is the highest caliber of minor hockey
Additionally, teams are categorized as either Tier 1, 2, 3, or 4 for district, and provincial championship playoffs based on the enrollment sizes of their associations.
In the United States, the levels of minor hockey are as follows:
Mini Mite (ages 5-6) (Levels A)
Mite (ages 7-8) (Levels AA, A, B)
Squirt (ages 9–10) (Levels AAA, AA, A, B)
Peewee (ages 11–12) (Levels AAA, AA, A, B)
Bantam (ages 13–14) (Levels AAA, AA, A, B)
Minor Midget 16 and Under (ages 15–16) (Levels AAA, AA, junior varsity highschool-A)
Major Midget 18 and Under (ages 15–18) (Levels AAA, AA, varsity highschool-AA and AAA)
Leagues are also tiered as follows:
AAA: Tier 1
AA: Tier 2
A: Tier 2 Average Hockey Level
B: Tier 2 Lower Hockey Level
In the country of Sweden, youth hockey is divided up as follows:
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)
Pretty simple as the Swedes simply base youth hockey on the age of the player.