Why the Two Choice Rule and Why You Should Be Careful with Choices

By John Dunne, AHAI President

ahaienews ahai logoI hope the following information will answer why the Two Choice Rule/Bylaw is in place and give our Tier II families a little guidance in the choice they make for the club or clubs in which they choose to have their players skate.

Youth hockey in Illinois at the House (Tier III) and club travel (Tier II) is built on a community based model; play where you live. Open hockey (Tier I) is just that, open, no restrictions so the most skilled players are able to participate.

The Tier II Two Choice Rules are intended to help preserve the community based model. It does allow for an additional choice if the club in the area does not fit the needs of the player or family. There is also a process in place to apply for an additional substitute choice if circumstances permit. An additional choice is also granted at the U16 level as options for players change at this level. Furthermore, there are rules in place to make it difficult for clubs/coaches to recruit players or families from one club to another in an effort to “stack” a team.

At this time of year, people are looking at options for their skaters. Whatever those reason are for looking at different options, consider that substitute choices are very difficult to receive. The most common reason for moving from club to club is perceived competition level. Clubs offer many different options such as CSDHL, NIHL Elite or minor/major aged teams. Moving for perceived “better” competition is not grounds for a substitute choice down the road. The other misconception is that a player always has two viable choices. Not true! As long as one of the clubs offer a team at the player’s age level (not perceived skill level) they do not meet the criteria for a substitute choice.

Again, this Bylaw and the rules that help implement the bylaw are put forth by the clubs themselves. If you would like to see these rules change, start with your club president.

The following is a detailed explanation of the Bylaw and some interpretations of the rules.

Two Choice and Player Movement Information


For more details or interpretations, consult the actual Bylaw and AHAI Rules available at www.ahai.org.

These are travel teams in the State of Illinois that compete at the “AA” and A” levels. Tier II Hockey in Illinois is built on strong community based programs that begin with learn to skate and house league. Participants are encouraged to find a program in their area that best suits their family’s needs from start to finish. Parent involvement in reinforcing sportsmanship, respect and fair play are essential in the development of the youth player as they ascend the pyramid of competitive hockey. Players are given the opportunity in Tier II to change organizations once during their playing years from Mite to Bantams. Players are allowed a third choice at the Midget age. These choices should be made with the same care that a parent would use to choose a school for their child.

What Are the Tier II Rules?

  1. Two Choices and Only Two Choices: Essentially, every player will have a total of two Member Associations for which they can play for from Mite through Bantam Major. This is a community based rule. This rule allows opportunity to choose 2 clubs. Players that are U16 and U18 aged will be granted a third choice. They will not need to petition for a choice substitution for a Midget third choice, but they will be required to complete the online acknowledgement form before they will be certified on the team’s roster.
  1. No Restriction on Making a Second Choice: There is no restriction on a player’s right to choose a second Member Association up to their Bantam major age or for a third Midget choice. However, you only get two choices until you are of Bantam age. That second choice is your last until you are Midget aged, so make the second choice with a lot of inquiry, planning and thought and not the emotion of the moment. Please see paragraph 4 on the Member Association’s right to set its own rules. The exception to the Second Choice Rule is when player movement violates the 2/4/6/8 Rule. The 2/4/6/8 Rule limits any Tier II team to two (2) players at the Mite level who played Tier II the previous year for another Tier II program. The limit is four (4) players at the Squirt level who played Tier II the previous year for another Tier II program. The limit is six (6) players at the Pee Wee level who played Tier II the previous year for another Tier II program. The limit is eight (8) players at the Bantam level who played Tier II the previous year for another Tier II program. There is no limit at Midget. If a player is returning to a Tier II club that is one of their previous choices it does not count against the 2/4/6/8 player limit. If a club does not field a team at a level player movement to a new club does not count against the 2/4/6/8 player limit.
  1. No Bylaw Restriction On Moving Between Your Two Choices: There is no restriction in the Bylaw about a player moving back and forth between the player’s two choices.
  1. Member Associations May Be Able to Set More Restrictive Rules: The Bylaw is silent on Member Associations being able to set their own rules. The general rule of interpretation is that Leagues and Member Associations may make more restrictive rules. Accordingly, Member Associations are not currently restricted in setting their own rules for accepting players back once the player makes their second choice or skates for another Member Association. Before making a choice, you should know the rules within the respective organizations.
  1. Complete Tier II Declaration and Acknowledgment Online with AHAI: Every player new to Tier II hockey or new to a Member Association will be sent an email to the address used when they completed their USA Hockey registration for the current playing season. The player or their parent(s) will need to complete the declaration process on line before they will be allowed to be rostered on a team with a new Tier II organization.
  1. Counseling Required: IT IS REQUIRED that every player and their parent(s) new to Tier II hockey or new to a Member Association be counseled when they enter into those Tier II travel hockey programs by some official of the Tier II Member Association. The player or parent(s) will acknowledge that they have been counseled when they complete the on line declaration process that is sent to them when registering on the new Tier II team. If there are any questions that have not been explained to your satisfaction, you may inquire by email at TierII@ahai.org.
  1. Limited Right to Appeal for Substitute Choice: There is a very limited right of appeal for a player to substitute one Member Association for one of the player’s prior two choices. This right is extremely limited and should not be relied upon when making any choice. You should read the By-Law for the exact criteria.

What is A Choice? 

  1. Tryouts are NOT a Choice. You can try out for as many Member Associations as you believe is prudent.
  1. When is a Choice made? When you make a team and sign a roster. However, AHAI, currently, does not make your choice final until the date AHAI rosters are due to the AHAI Registrar, WHICH IS before THE FIRST GAME. Leagues may have more restrictive rules, so you have to know the League rules as well as the AHAI rules.

What is My First Choice? 

  1. Never Played Tier II Before: If you have never played for a Tier II Team before, your first choice will be the Tier II Member Association where you first play on a Tier II Team (but see December 15th Rule in Section 5 below). In this regard, just because you started in a learn to skate program or a house league sponsored by a Tier II Member Association, that does not necessarily have to be your first choice, but it is the organization that introduced you to hockey and you know them.
  1. Receive This Summary and Any Restrictive Policy: You should receive this explanation (the one you are reading) and any restrictive policy of a Member Association at the time of try-outs.
  1. Retain Summary and Copy of Restrictive Policy: You should retain this explanation and any documents you receive with it, including any restrictive policy the Member Association may have. This is your record of the information that you were provided regarding this rule.

What about My Second Choice? 

A player has the option of leaving the original club they started at and playing for another. This is a onetime addition to the club he (or she) started with until the player is a Midget. If the club they go to or the club they left no longer offers a team at the level the player is at during the current season that is not considered a hardship or special circumstance. They still have a viable Tier II team to try out for.

  1. Only Two Total Choices-Make Them With Care: You only get two choices for Mite to Bantam Major. If you have used the first one by playing Tier II hockey sometime in the past . . .make that second choice with great care . . . you do not get another choice.
  1. Best Player, Team or Coach This Year, What About Next Year? Sure, my son/daughter may be the best player on the team or play for the best team, or coach this year, but what about next year? Things change, so make that second choice with great care.
  1. Coach Changes Organizations: What if the coach (we love) decides to change organizations after we have made our second choice? (that will not be grounds for an exception).
  1. Not Make Team I Wanted or Thought I Should: I did not make the AA team I wanted. Your choices have nothing to do with whether or not you make the A or AA team at either Member Association, nor does it matter that the Member Association of either of your choices does not have a team that plays in the highest level of a League or even does not belong to a League you wish to play in. (NIHL or Central States) You will not get an exception because you did not make the team of your choice or the Member Association does not have or field the team of your choice or belong to a League of your choice, so long as the Member Association fields a team at the age level you are playing for.
  1. Is There A Restrictive Policy If I Leave? What is the philosophy and rule of the organization of my first choice about me leaving? What is the philosophy and rule of my potential second choice?

Situations that might lead to the rare substitute choice: 

Example: Neither club the player has played for has a Tier II team at that player’s age level; the player will receive a substitute choice, based on approval of AHAI. AHAI will grant a substitute choice that is geographically not an issue. (Travel distance from home to practice) A player will not be given an “open choice”; the exemption is a substitution requiring approval.

Example: A player leaves their first club and goes to a second. They encounter a problem at the new club that invokes an R & E investigation with a finding that the club did not deal fairly with the player. As long as the first club they played for has a viable Tier II team at the appropriate age level, the player must try out for that club if he (or she) desires to play Tier II. If they are then cut (from all the teams in that age division), then they may apply for a substitution. AHAI will determine if the substitution request is within geographic guidelines associated with “community based” hockey. Note: A change of residence which significantly impacts the distance a player needs to travel to their closest viable choice (after the relocation) may be considered.

  1. Get Involved and Change What You Do Not Like In Choices: What if I do not like the philosophy of my first or second choice? You chose them, get involved and work to change it. Merely changing organizations is not going to help hockey in Illinois get better.
  1. Organization’s Philosophy and History: Determine the Member Association’s philosophy about hockey. This philosophy and history will be your choice for a long time. If you are a Mite or Squirt, remember that you will also be making this choice for the rest of your hockey time in Illinois up to your Bantam Major year, so check out their programs through all age levels as well as the level you are currently interested in. Determine the coach’s philosophy. Are they what your player wants? Are they what you want for your child?
  1. Rumors and Promises-Be Careful: Be careful of rumors and gossip as well as “promises.” Promises or any inducement to play hockey in Illinois could compromise eligibility. These decisions will affect you for a long time.
  1. Acknowledgment via the AHAI Online Process: You will receive an email sent to the address that you used to register with USA Hockey for the current playing season. You will complete the acknowledgment process when the team that you have made has uploaded that team to the AHAI database.

What if I Still Have Questions?

Contact the AHAI Tier II Committee Chairperson:

Chairman Gregg Chudacoff

(C) 773-315-4973

(F) 773-247-2632


Categories: Advice, Tier II Hockey

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