Ice Hockey Wiki

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. Yes and AAA teams can play in the internationals.

In Canada, the age categories are designated by each provincial hockey governing body based on Hockey Canada's guidelines,[1] and each category may have multiple tiers based on skill.

In November 2019, Hockey Canada announced that beginning in 2020 (officially taking effect in the 2020–21 season), it would refer to its age categories by their age limits (with "midget" being renamed "U18", for example) rather than by names. It stated that the new names would be more concise, while there had also been concerns over use of the term "midget" in this context—as the word is now considered a pejorative towards dwarfism.[2][3]

Age categories

To qualify in a category, the player must be under the age limit as of December 31 of the current season.

  • U7 (formerly Initiation, Mini Mite, Tyke or H1/H2, Pre-MAHG (Méthode d’Apprentissage de Hockey sur Glace), MAHG 1 and 2): under 7 years of age[4] In some larger areas with multiple associations in close proximity, Tyke is broken up by age into U6 (minor U7 or H1) for 5-year-old players and U7 (major U7, major tyke, orH2) for 6 years old players. In the Province of Quebec, players start in Pre-MAHG to initiate skating techniques. Over the next two following years they are in levels MAHG 1 and MAHG 2 to develop a sense of the game.
  • U9 (formerly Novice or Mite or H3/H4 or MAHG3/MAHG4): under 9 years of age[5] In some larger areas, U9 is broken up by age into U8 (minor U9 or minor novice or H3) for 7-year-old players and U9 (major U9 or H4 or major novice) for 8-year-old players.
  • U11 (formerly Atom): under 11 years of age[6]
  • U13 (formerly Peewee): under 13 years of age[7]
  • U15 (formerly Bantam): under 15 years of age[8]
  • U18 (formerly Midget): under 18 years of age[9] Many provinces have U16 or minor Midget leagues that are for 15-year-old players and major midget for 16 to 17-year-old players.
  • U20 (formerly Juvenile): under 20 years of age, for players who want to remain in hockey at a minor hockey association level.
  • Junior: under 21 years of age[10] 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

Skill categories

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" or Recreational) 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. Also known as a taxi squad.
  • 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 Select in some area.


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.

  • 'House Level' Inter Association hockey never leaving own association
  • 'C' Playing other associations in a region.
  • 'B'
  • 'A'
  • 'AA'
  • 'AAA' is the highest caliber of minor hockey

British Columbia

In British Columbia, BC Hockey has a different system as the province has no "B" level hockey (Rostered select / League select). All teams are either non-competitive "C" house or competitive Rep teams "A" (Pee Wee to Juvenile). Rep teams "A' compete exclusively association vs. 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 exists as Atom is considered developmental. The OMAHA and VIAHA have "Atom Development" rep teams, while the PCAHA follows "A1,A2,A3, etc" similar to older ages. Midget Rep has a BC run Midget AAA league which is the highest level of midget rep, in addition to association run rep teams (A1,A2,A3,etc.)

"A" level teams are 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 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 urbanly known as the "double letters" and are labeled as BB, AA (Atom through Midget Levels), and AAA (urbanly considered as triple-A and higher than the double letters). AAA teams in Quebec only occur from categories Pee-Wee through Junior. The Midget category offers the 'Espoir' Level (primarily 15-year-olds) and falls between AA and AAA distinction. The following are the Levels currently played in the Province of Quebec, as sanctioned by Hockey Quebec:

  • Pre-MAHG or Mini-MAHG (4 Years of age)
  • Pre-Novice 1 (5 Years of age): MAHG 1
  • Pre-Novice 2 (6 Years of age): MAHG 2
  • Novice (Ages 7 – 8): N4 -N3 - N2 - N1
  • Atom (Ages 9 – 10): C – B – A – BB – AA
  • Pee-Wee (Ages 11 – 12): C – B – A – BB – AA – AAA
  • Bantam (Ages 13 – 14): B – A – BB – AA – AAA
  • Midget (Ages 15 – 17): B – A – BB – AA – AAA
  • Junior (Ages 18 – 21): B – A – BB – AA

Controversy regarding age distribution in Canadian minor hockey

In a 2001 study published by the University of Toronto Press, the effects of minor hockey players who are born in the first half of the year (January–June) were directly compared to those who are born in the second half of the calendar year (July–December). The study aimed to determine how age affects a young player's probability of playing at a higher level in the future. Given the relatively short age brackets in Canadian minor hockey (players move up one league every two years before the age of 15), it was hypothesized that players who are born in the latter part of a calendar year are at a disadvantage (theoretically, a child could be playing with peers who are 2.5 years older than themselves under the current Canadian Minor Hockey system). The findings in this research were consistent with the hypothesis; upon extensive testing throughout several leagues and age divisions in Canada, Hurley, Lior and Tracze concluded that age plays a significant factor in a players ability to excel in hockey beyond the house league level.[11]

The findings of this study resulted in the proposal for redistribution of player slotting in minor hockey under a new "quarter" system. The system proposed would split a year into four-quarters, consisting of three months each, for example,1992(3) for players born in 1992 sometime in the third quarter (i.e., sometime in the months July, August or September). Under this proposed system players would play against players of a similar age, never playing opponents who are over 24 months older than them as the current system allows. The proposed system would operate under an 8-year basis, moving players from division to division each year.[11]


In France, hockey teams use the following levels[12]:

  • Moustiques (age 9 and younger)
  • Poussins (age 11 and younger)
  • Benjamins (age 13 and younger)
  • Minimes (age 15 and younger)
  • Cadets (age 18 and younger)


In Germay, German Ice Hockey Federation designates the following levels:

  • Kleinstschüler (Bambini) (ages 8 and younger)
  • Kleinschüler (ages 10 and younger)
  • Knaben (ages 12 and younger)
  • Schüler (ages 14 and younger)
  • Jugend (ages 16 and younger)
  • Junioren (ages 18 and younger)

All levels are administrated by the respective sub-federation in each province except for the federal leagues that are administrated directly by the German Ice Hockey Federation: DNL, Schüler-, Jugend- and Junioren Bundesliga.


In Sweden, Swedish Ice Hockey Federation designates the following levels:

Linesmen in the middle of breaking up a youth hockey scrum.

  • 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 province (landskap).


In 2007, the Schweizerischer Eishockeyverband (the Swiss Ice Hockey Association) defined uniform age categories[13], using terms from the national languages of Switzerland.

  • Bambini (9 and under), Italian for "baby"
  • 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"

United States

In the United States, USA Hockey designates the following levels[14]:

  • Mite (ages 8 and younger)
  • Squirt (ages 9-10)
  • Peewee (ages 11-12)
  • Bantam (ages 13-14)
  • Midget 16 and Under (ages 15-16)
  • Midget 18 and Under (ages 15-18)

Some leagues also have a younger level referred to as "Mosquitoes."


A youth hockey official signalling an icing call.

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. While a certain number quit due to other reasons, the most common reason is that. 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. This is very rarely reported in other countries, either because it's less prone to occur there, or that it won't get the same news attention. These problems were addressed in Hockey Canada's "Relax, it's just a game"-campaign, 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.


External links

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Minor ice hockey. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ice Hockey Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).