By Jim Clare
Last Monday evening’s NIHL meeting gave us our first look at preliminary team counts for the upcoming travel hockey season. AHAI was encouraged to see 5 more clubs commit mite teams to the upcoming NIHL season; Rockford, Champaign Chiefs, Pekin, Blackbirds, and Yellowjackets. In all there are 19 clubs that are placing mite teams in NIHL this season. Those clubs represent about 38+ mite teams. Each metallic level (Gold, Silver, Bronze) will have 10-15 teams participating this season. A special shout out to the Admirals and Irish who have decided to go 100% half-ice/cross-ice with all their mites this season. The Admirals are looking to become a model association with USA Hockey.
As many have heard there are several clubs looking to move their mites out of USA Hockey in order to allow these 7 and 8 year old skaters to play more full-ice games than what has been granted AHAI through the USA Hockey exception process. Based on several emails I have received regarding what this alternative option will consist of, I want to include a section of correspondence that has been sent out by each organization in this league…
“The new league will offer a full season of 24 full-ice games, plus round robin playoffs (minimum of 3-4 more games), from September to March. Tournaments for Mite Travel teams (probably 6-8 more games) will also be organized in addition to the regular season games.”
As has been stated in the past, AHAI is not eliminating full-ice hockey as some have suggested. We (AHAI and USA Hockey) are working under the well founded premise that mites playing upwards of 35-40 full-ice games in approximately 6 months is not the optimum way to develop them for the long-term. Think about what 40 games represents; half an NHL season, more games than most Division 1 colleges play, and almost as many as most Junior teams. One thought is what is the practice to game ratio for these young skaters? AHAI stands by its decision but realizes some may disagree. We wish those skaters all the best.
Some have also suggested that AHAI has been too aggressive in promoting what we and USA Hockey feel is a better approach to mite player development. Based on the email that was sent out to mite parents in those clubs that have decided to leave AHAI with their mites, we felt a need to clarify the comments that were made. Those clubs feel that more full-ice games and little to no half-ice games is appropriate, we feel it is not. We have found that at least 19 clubs feel the same way and many parents in the clubs that are moving mites out of AHAI feel the same way.
I have received dozens of emails from concerned parents that want to stay with NIHL and AHAI as opposed to the choice their club has made to pull their mites out of NIHL. The main question revolves around using a choice to do this. The AHAI Two Choice Rule makes mention of the fact that if your current choice does not field a team at the level your skater is at, then you can apply for a substitute choice. As of today, I have advised those parents to submit a Two Choice Application (click HERE for the form). In addition, the 2-4-6-8 Rule may come into play with several mites leaving a non-USA hockey mite program to go to a NIHL program, with less choices of where to go, there may be more than 2 mites from another organization on a team. This rule is very clear as it states verbatim….” Individuals who played for a club that does not field a team at a level will not count against the maximum for the club in which the player moves.” That being said, the 2-4-6-8 rule does not come into play for these types of moves.
No matter what your child does this winter, we hope it is an enjoyable season. For those leaving AHAI and USA Hockey, we hope to see you back again the following year. For those mites staying in NIHL, congratulations for staying the course and supporting the league that has supported all of us for so long.