Girls’ FAQs


Why are Tier I Girls designated as AA for the State Tournament and not AAA as the Boys are designated? I understand that in Tier II there is AA, A and B for Boys due to the large range of teams and skills; I would still think Tier I would keep the AAA designation whether Boys or Girls. – A Tier I Girls Parent


Thanks for your question; it is a good one that many people have.

The designations for Girls hockey by USA Hockey, the National Governing Body (NGB), are either Tier I or Tier II hockey. As both Illinois levels of Youth and Girls Tier I and Tier II are eligible for National tournament play, we keep the same designations at the AHAI State Tournament – Tier I and Tier II as they actually are.

For youth, or boys, the designation is the same – we have the Tier I State Champions as eligible for the Tier I Regional and National Championships under USA Hockey. In our Youth Tier II State Tournament, only the AA teams are eligible for the USA Hockey National Championships. But rather than be exclusionary, or limit the participation of our Tier II clubs, AHAI has invented the AA, A and B classifications. It allows more teams to participate in the State Tournament.

In reality, USA Hockey only recognizes the designation of Girls Tier I and Girls Tier II and Youth Tier I and Youth Tier II levels of hockey. USA Hockey does not use the “AAA” designation. The “AAA” designation used by any Tier I, Youth or Girls clubs, is of their own making, despite “AAA” being woven into the Illinois hockey vernacular.

I hope this helps and as always, if you have a question about hockey in Illinois, please ask AHAI.


What is up with changes to Girls Hockey in Illinois? I heard AHAI is going to get rid of AAA Girls hockey? – A Concerned AAA Girls’ Hockey Parent


What you have heard is completely false. I am often surprised at how information like this gets into the hockey community, but let me put it to rest. The AHAI Board has not and would not consider such a structural change as eliminating AAA Girls Hockey. The AHAI Board is looking for the best structure for Girls Hockey. In talking to John Dunne, President of AHAI, he stated, “the AHAI Board has been in discussion as to how to improve the structure of the girls’ hockey landscape in Illinois. Several proposals and many opinions have been discussed. All Tier I opinions and many Tier II opinions have been heard, but no conclusion has yet been reached to determine the most productive avenue for girls in Illinois.”  AHAI is looking to make girls Hockey in Illinois, as a whole, the best experience for girls. Always ASK AHAI for the “straight answers” on any hockey issue.


Why do Girls High School teams have tryouts? There are still a limited number of girls playing hockey except in a few suburbs. So why the formality of calling an ice slot tryouts? Can a girl be cut following the tryouts?


Thanks for your question; I think the word “tryout” is a misnomer. The term “tryout” is a bit overused in Girls’ High School hockey. Only pure teams can truly conduct tryouts and make cuts when appropriate; there are only two pure Girls’ High School Teams in Illinois – New Trier and Loyola. The rest of our Girls’ High School teams are combined teams, and under combined rules they must take all who apply (provided they attend schools in their combination).

But the “tryout” period is still appropriate for many players, as you have 40% of the girls on High School teams double rostered to other club teams.  The High School teams need to be sure the girls will commit to the High School program and need to know how many players they will have for the hockey season.  Most Girls’ High School programs are looking for players to add to the team. The only possible reason for refusing to roster a player would be a safety issue, where the player suffers the potential for injury.

You are correct, the word “tryout” is inappropriate except for New Trier and Loyola.  So perhaps it should be called an evaluation and commitment period.


Why do Girls teams get to play at a lower age level in NIHL?


This is a good question and one that tends to breed a lot of frustration from both Boys and Girls teams.  We know that girls at 14 are much bigger than Pee Wee boys, and while they do still play “no check” it is not “no contact” and that may give the bigger girls an edge.  We understand the occasional frustration with this disparity.

First, USA Hockey has ruled that teams with girls only may in fact “play down” an age division. This is due to a number of factors – most specifically the typical physical skill disparity between boys and girls of the same age, and to provide places for the girls to play!  In the whole state of Illinois there are less than 2000 girls (vs. 20,000 boys) playing ice hockey, and most at the younger ages still playing on boys teams. That leaves very few girls to make up teams. There really are not many girls in the game past 12-13 years of age.

AHAI encourages the local leagues to accept the girl’s teams into youth leagues to allow for adequate teams for the girls to play.  Girls’ teams do petition to play in NIHL, and NIHL has graciously offered to accommodate the girls’ teams in a younger age bracket league. NIHL too wants to provide a venue for these girls.  NIHL and Southwest Spring League do make their own decisions on the placement of the girls’ teams in the different skill levels.

Overall we do think it is a generally fair way to approach the situation.   However, with “Checking” now not played until Bantam, more girls may stay with the boys youth teams through Pee Wee and perhaps eliminating some of the poor perceptions of girls teams “playing down”.


High School:  14 teams

Girls U-19 teams: 4 teams

Girls U-16 teams: 6 teams

Girls U14 teams:  13 teams

Girls U12 teams:  7 teams