By Mike Mullally, AHAI Director
QUESTION: Why are there only 4 Tier 1 programs in Illinois? Given the number of youth players in Illinois and USA Hockey guidelines, Illinois should have more Tier 1 programs to bring Illinois in line with the number of Tier 1 programs in other states/regions of the United States.
ANSWER: Thanks for your question. Right now there are only 4 Tier 1 programs in Illinois because that is the number of clubs that have ever applied for Tier 1 status. However, our AHAI Tier 1 rules do allow for only 4 clubs at this time. Granted it requires a lot to attain Tier 1 status in Illinois (minimum of 3 AAA teams, one of those a Pee Wee team and enough ice/off-ice to support the program). Thus far no other organization has applied for Tier 1 status. Presently approximately 5% of our total players are elite, or play at the Tier 1 level.
Other affiliates, like Michigan, Massachusetts and New York look to emulate Illinois’ Tier 1 programs. Therefore, I do not think we are behind other affiliates, but ahead of them. In some states all one need do is register as a single Tier 1 team to attain that status (whether they are actually of that skill level is immaterial).
My personal opinion is that we have about the correct number of Tier 1 players in Illinois. It is correct from the participation standpoint and from the “ability to afford” standpoint. That is, there are enough places for a players of a level of certain ability and cost structure to play at the Tier 1 level today. Our Tier 1 programs in Illinois rank nationally in the top 10 out of approximately 125 Tier 1 programs in the USA. We are very proud of what we have and the level of play and development they offer to the players in their programs.
This is why we have only 4 clubs, 48 teams, (not just individual teams) in Illinois and not more as do some other affiliates or states.