With try outs just days away, and people’s inboxes being inundated with emails about new and exciting opportunities in youth hockey, many programs will advertise different things. In order to help folks sort through what this may mean to them we thought it might be helpful to provide some insight.
CHC is the Connecticut Hockey Conference; the governing body for USA Hockey in the state. The CHC currently has two member organizations that compete as Tier 1 programs. They are MidFairfield and the CT Wolfpack. These teams attract and select what would be considered the top 2 % of the players for a particular age group. At the midget Level there are additional Tier 1 teams that are predominantly made up of prep school players.
The CHC allows each program to declare their teams Tier 2, 3 or Open. Most organizations who plat ay Tier 2 (not all do) typically have a Tier 2 “A” team, a Tier 3 “A1” team and an Open Tier “B” team. Teams that are declared at CHC Tier 2 and 3 are deemed to be eligible to play for the state, regional and national tournaments of USA Hockey. These are often referred to as "tournament bound teams.”
If a program is not a CHC member they are still able to play games against CHC member teams but are not tournament bound and are only eligible to participate in CHC State Tournaments at the Open level. These programs may also be “for profit” organizations and may be more focused on winning the generation of revenue than they are on the development of young hockey players. These are pay to participate; not necessarily pay to play and often lead to a lot of travel as the pool of potential opponents is limited by the absence of a CHC membership.
In addition, we have seen a recent trend in the liberal usage of the “AAA” label and what it exactly means to an organization. Consensus opinion in hockey circles would say that most programs currently using the AAA label in CHC are essentially Tier 2 programs as described above. There are even programs currently operating in the state who refer to themselves as AAA and play what is essentially a Tier 3 schedule.
In other New England states AAA hockey is the norm and programs will have a AAA elite team, which is generally of Tier 1 quality, a AAA team that equates to a CHC Tier 2 and any number of AAA non-elite teams which are basically Tier 3 and/or 4 .
Recently, you may have seen a lot of news and emails about a newcomer to the marketing of youth hockey in the state; the EJEPL (Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League) - you can visit this site at www.ejepl.com. Take a minute to review the location of these teams and you can imagine what a typical weekend of travel hockey could look like. You will also see that some of these teams are AAA or Tier 2 hockey. Travel for hockey is standard, to travel around the Northeast for weekends at a time can be very expensive.
If your child is in the top 5 % in their age group, they should try out for one of the state's Tier 1 teams. These are great programs that serve top end players extremely well and, in most cases, they will find you if your child is truly a top caliber player. For the other 95% who want to develop as hockey players, and would prefer not spending their weekends at a Holiday Inn, select a program that offers a comfortable environment for your child to enjoy the game of hockey.