This is one of the questions I see quite often posted on ask yahoo. “Am I too old to start playing hockey?”
The answer is simple – absolutely not!
First of all hockey is a sport that is enjoyed by players of all ages, from 3 years old up to 70+. Regardless of your age, as long as you are willing to learn how to skate and play the game you will be able to compete and have fun.
Minor Hockey – Age range-based divisions
In our region the leagues are arranged by age and level of play. Age ranges are set at 2 years to allow players of approximately the same size and maturity to play together and allow younger players to be competitive with each other instead of letting the older kids dominate due to their physical maturity.
We have the following age ranges:
Hockey School, Novice, Atom, Peewee, Bantam, Midget and Juvenile Edit: In more recent years the U system has been employed in an effort to be more inclusive, U7 being children under seven, U9, children under 9 etc.
For each of these age categories there are different levels of skill in competitive and non-competitive leagues.
In the Competitive leagues there is usually a further segregation in age to allow the players to really compete with their peers. Their first year in that age range the players are referred to as “Minor” while in their second year they are “Major”. Usually there will be an elite AA team and sometimes even a AAA team which combines players from a larger geographical area. There will then also be an A or B competitive team for both Major and Minor ages. Competitive teams travel quite a bit which makes the hockey more expensive. They usually practise several times a week and take part in a variety of tournaments. Teams are composed of the best players in their age range.
- AA – Major
- AA – Minor
- A or B – Major
- A or B – Minor
For non-competitive or house-league teams, the play is more relaxed, although the level can be competitive, there are less practises and less tournaments and the games are mostly local. There are usually three levels of house league play.
For house league, minor and major players are grouped together. The better players play at the A level while weaker players play at the C level and average players play in the B level. This tiered system is good as it enables strong players to play together and it lets weaker players develop by competing against players of their calibre. Without this system, the good players would always have the puck and leave the weaker players behind which would leave little room for the weaker players to play with the puck and develop their passing/shooting skills.
Junior Hockey Leagues
Junior Hockey leagues typically span from 16-21 years of age and are competitive in nature. Some players have a small salary to play (not enough to live on) but usually they need to pay to play. Junior teams usually are for-profit, selling tickets to games. These leagues are the gateway to professional leagues and training grounds for the best players. There is typically 4 levels of play. With the top tier having teams from a large geographical area.
- Major Junior
- Junior A
- Junior B
- Junior C
Various high-schools, universities and colleges have leagues with various tiers of competitiveness. Scholarships are sometimes offered to players at the university/college level which can pay for their schooling and some living expenses depending on the location.
For the Adult levels, there are also a variety of tiers. Each league has many different levels of play so teams of a similar level can play against eachother instead of getting blown out every game. For example my current league (Minto hockey league) has 12 levels of play, 2 levels for players above 35 years of age and some levels for female-only teams. Other leagues in Ottawa also have different levels (OSMHL has 9, travellers has 19 levels + 5 levels for players above 35 years of age).
In these leagues, the players are typically paid to play with some players having hockey as their main income. The most well know is the National Hockey League (NHL) which is the main hockey league in the world, players typically earn several million dollars a year to play. There are a number of feeder leagues and alternate leagues as well such as the American Hockey League (AHL), East-Coast Hockey League and several leagues in Europe such as the Swedish Hockey League, and the Swiss National League. There are also a number of female-only leagues.
Regardless of your skill level, there is a league out there that will have players of similar calibre to you so you can learn, improve and have fun!