By Jim Clare
AHAI has announced the programming for Mite Hockey for the upcoming Fall season. Before I explain, one change that has been made by USA Hockey is the addition of the U6 Mite classification. Mites have been split into two age classifications so keep that in mind as we discuss what was passed by AHAI for Mite Hockey. As many of you know, USA Hockey requires all its State Affiliates to abide by the rules as written in their guidebook. One rule that has received special attention is the mite rule that requires all mites to play on a reduced ice surface (half-ice or cross-ice). They have also allowed State Affiliates to apply for an exception to that rule to allow some full-ice hockey if so desired.
There are 34 USA Hockey Affiliates, of which 18 did not apply for any exception and have gone all half-ice/cross-ice. All Affiliates have gone to cross-ice only for U6. 16 Affiliates have applied for an exception and received it from the review committee at USA hockey, including AHAI. This committee is made up of mainly Affiliate Presidents. However, as most know, AHAI’s original exception was for 25 full-ice games and 20 half-ice games for the upcoming season. The Board at AHAI fought for this exception even though they knew it was an uphill battle. For comparison, the closest exception to ours was for 12 full-ice games beginning January 1st, all others were 10 games or less beginning January 1st.
Based on being so far outside the norm, AHAI was presented with a decision, ignore the USA Hockey rule and put Illinois in jeopardy of sanctions for violating it (possible sanctions included no teams allowed at Nationals or player development camps) or submit an exception that is acceptable to the committee. Faced with this, the Board made a decision to not put our players and teams in jeopardy. We compromised with USA Hockey and still received the most liberal exception, 15 full-ice games after December 1st.
Before anyone questions why AHAI had no choice but to compromise, let me ask you this; if you had an organization with 56 teams and one of those teams was willfully breaking the rules of the Club, would you expect the leadership to take action against that team? If you coach a team, and one of your players is violating the rules of the team, shouldn’t you take action against that player? Therefore, when 33 of 34 Affiliates are at least trying to abide by USA Hockey rules and 1 of them isn’t, the other 33 expect the Governing body to take action. If anyone has any questions on the AHAI Mite policy, please reach out to me directly.
Having said that, what is NIHL planning for this upcoming season for our U8 Mite travel teams? After much discussion with Club Presidents and AHAI, NIHL has put together the following season for U8 Mites:
- 8 half-ice game tiering round beginning October 1st
- A 16 game regular season beginning December 1st which includes 12 full-ice and 4 half-ice games
This allows for one tournament, which only counts as 3 games regardless of whether you play more based on advancing in the tournament.
Like the sanctions that were explained to AHAI for violating the agreed upon exception, we are all part of AHAI and USA Hockey, so similar ramifications can possibly come to those clubs that violate the AHAI exception of playing more than 15 full-ice games as a USA Hockey registered team. Again, if anyone has any questions, please reach out to me directly, as I have the background to answer any and all questions.
U8 Travel Mites have a 24 game season, half-ice games count, there will be referees, scores and standings kept in all of those games. AHAI has the largest exception of any Affiliate in the country. NIHL is committed to making it a fun and exciting season. These rules also apply to our Gold Mites, and NWHL is formulating their plans for the Fall as well.