Minor League Hockey Levels
Hockey is one of the sports that the more the practice time, the better the player. Therefore, the best shot one has at making it to the big leagues is to start early. This makes some parents wonder what age brackets of minor league hockey are available.
Minor league hockey is divided into seven age groups starting at 5 to 6 years old and going up to 18 or 19 years old, depending on the country. A player who starts at five can go up a level every two years until he exits minor league and is ready to play major junior or equivalent.
This article goes into each of the levels of minor league hockey, exploring the different names the level is known by and how hard it is to get into the given stage. You will also learn the best practices of joining at the given age group alongside the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.
The USA and Canada are the dominant countries in ice hockey. Most careers are built on this geographical area, and thus, one has to optimize their career to be lucrative to associations and leagues across the US and Canada.
While the names of minor hockey levels are different in Canada and the United States, the age group division is virtually similar. As a result, players rising through Canadian leagues can get recruited to a US team, and minor hockey stars in the USA can find a future for themselves in Canada as well.
If you are curious about the specifics of minor league hockey levels, look no further. Below is the age-group division that makes up the levels of minor hockey. We also discuss what age is best to start ice hockey in another article.
Ages: five / six years old
Experience Level: nil
Difficulty of Enrollment: 1/10
This is the earliest age level introduction your child can have to hockey. From learning more about the equipment used and how to be safe while on the ice, this will instill valuable skills in your child at the right age.
More importantly, it keeps your child from adopting practices that coaches would later have to make them unlearn. As a result, tryouts, if any, will be a breeze, and your kid will gain more confidence with their on-ice abilities.
You may also be surprised by our article which mentions what age some NHL players started skating.
Ages: seven / eight years old
Experience Level: demonstrate some skill at trial (depending on tier)
Difficulty of Enrollment: 3/10
Though just a level above mini mite, this is already where the journey starts getting more challenging. Since there are better tier leagues that mites can play for, depending on the location, the difficulty of enrollment can vary. At the very least, the player should demonstrate the ability to listen and communicate alongside some on-ice skills.
It is advisable to try for a rep team, and only if that doesn’t work out should you opt for a house team. The more challenging the team is to get on, the better visibility a player gets.
Ages: nine / ten years old
Experience Level: demonstrate skill, potential, and experience
Difficulty of Enrollment: 5/10
Hockey becomes properly competitive at nine because other players have developed their hand-eye coordination, physicality, and speed to where it is no longer about the player learning the game but is about how one handles opponents.
This is why parents are advised to enroll their kids in a program at an earlier stage. Joining at this phase may give the hockey player a disadvantage because they are several years behind other players. And a drawback is in the level of competition is higher.
Ages: eleven / twelve years old
Experience Level: demonstrate significant skill, potential, and experience
Difficulty of Enrollment: 6/10
At the Peewee level, the players are expected to be seasoned hockey players in everything but physicality and age. While this may seem unfair to those not familiar with hockey, those who understand the game know that this is the right age to introduce this level of seriousness to minor hockey.
Ages: thirteen / fourteen years old
Experience Level: demonstrate superiority in skill over peers of the same age
Difficulty of Enrollment: 8/10
At the age of thirteen, players are expected to not only be draws for supportive parents but to start being serious crowd pullers. A combination of charisma, gameplay excellence, and superiority over peers is required to make strangers fill seats. This makes the stage as rewarding as it is difficult.
Ages: 15-16 (in the US) / 15-17 (in Canada)
Experience Level: demonstrate coachability, expert skill comparable to peers, and a past track record
Difficulty of Enrollment: 9/10
As you may have noticed, the age range for this group varies slightly. While Midget level players from Canada may compete with Minor Midget level teams from the US, the one-year gap does not matter because humans’ physical growth is not as exponentially tied to age after sixteen.
This also means that this level is as hard to get into as adult hockey. Going into tryouts with zero experience will barely qualify one for a tier two lower-level hockey. It is highly recommended that you start at least two levels earlier to be sufficiently prepared.
Ages: 15-18 (in the US) / 18-19 (in Canada)
Experience Level: showcase teamwork, scoring skills, and coachability
Difficulty of Enrollment: 10/10
This is the most challenging level to join cold. Most tier 1 leagues will refuse to have someone with zero experience even tryout. It is a great level to be mentally prepared for at least half a decade before starting your ice hockey journey. But if you are at this age, you can take training in a lower-tier league or a private program and then give your luck a shot.
If you have two children with an age gap of two years, it is unlikely that they will both play at the same level. And while this may not happen in games like soccer or even floor hockey, ice hockey is different because it is a full-contact sport.
That is why it is essential to divide young players across age lines to ensure their safety when they are in the development stage of their hockey career.
If you are searching for the age at which you can get into the game, the answer is your current age. It is best to join a program as early as possible, and for players looking for guidance, that means getting into the next best opportunity they find.
But if you are a parent looking for the right age around which your child is ready for hockey, you can register your son into a program by the age of nine and avoid potentially being too late.
Delaying any further might create bad practices that coaches will have to spend time making your child unlearn. Therefore, to minimize the learning curve, getting them enrolled at the earliest age, as soon as five years, is best for their overall career trajectory.
It may also be worth reading our article describing what percentage of youth hockey players make the NHL as well.
Minor hockey is very important for many kids under eighteen. It has multiple levels divided by age, with five years old being the earliest age to enroll. Every two years, the player has the opportunity to move up. While higher levels have better tier leagues, starting as early as possible is the best way to be prepared for higher-level hockey.
- NHL: Youth Hockey Organizations
- Hockey Canada: Under-7 Minor Hockey Age Division
- Sports Signup: Should Youth Sports Leagues Be Organized by Age, Size, or Skill Level?