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