Tier I & Tier II FAQs


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.

QUESTION: The rule states that 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. I have a question that relates to this rule in the following scenario:

A child stays with their club through Pee Wee at Club #1 at the NIHL level but moves to Club #2 for the CSDHL league that is not offered at Club #1. Does this rule above apply or does it only apply if no Bantam team is offered at Club # 1?

ANSWER: I believe I understand your question. The rule is correct for the “level”.  Tier 2 is a level. So whether or not a hockey club offers, or has a CSDHL or NIHL team, at a level, is immaterial. The aspect of the rule you site is only applicable if Club #1 offers no Bantam Tier 2 team. Whether or not that team is CSDHL or NIHL would not matter. The player cannot “chase” what might be perceived to be a better team in the CSDHL. The player still has a place to play hockey at Club #1.

For clarity, all of Tier 2 is to be “community based hockey” (while Tier 1 is Open Hockey). That means you should play where you live, or in close proximity. This provide parity among the Illinois teams, and also the similar team in other affiliates or states, who MUST play where they live. Without this parity, Illinois Tier 2 teams would not be permitted to participate in Tier 2 hockey in the USA.

I hope that makes it a bit clearer.  If you have any further question, please do not hesitate to “Ask AHAI”.

QUESTION: Why doesn’t Tier I have a 2 Choice Rule like Tier II?

ANSWER: Thank you for your question. The short answer to your question is that Tier I hockey is “open hockey” and Tier II hockey is “community-based travel hockey”.

Open hockey means that any player is free to move to any of our 4 Tier I programs. They can even accept out-of-state players on Tier I open teams. As long as a player can make the team he is able to play where he wants. There are no limits.

Tier II is different from Tier I. Our 2 Choice Rule for Tier II hockey is AHAI’s emulation of “community-based hockey” which is exactly what other affiliates/states do, like Minnesota, Michigan, New York and Massachusetts. In those states you play ONLY where you live. Having parity in Tier II teams with those other states allows us to compete with them on a level playing field, both in games, tournaments and the USA Hockey regional/national championships. In Illinois, about 20 years ago we changed the rule from strict “districting”, which Illinois had in place for the previous 30 years, to 2 Choice because there were so many new rinks being built and others going out of business; AHAI could not keep up. So, we do have 2 choices and not just 1 choice.

QUESTION: I have a question about application of the 2 Choice Rule. Our club is not offering a USA Hockey or AHAI team for the 8U players. If my son plays AAU Mites this year, will he be charged with a Choice under the AHAI 2 Choice rule? If he goes to another club to play USA Hockey/AHAI will he be charged his 2nd Choice?


ANSWER: The short answer is no. It would not be held against the 8U player if he has no option at his present club. The AAU is not an AHAI sanctioned program so it does not figure into the AHAI 2 Choice Rule. Any 8U player whose current hockey club does not field a USA Hockey/AHAI team at a given level will not be charged an additional choice if you do move your player to a USA Hockey/AHAI club. However, be sure to file an online petition with the Tier II Committee requesting an additional Choice option. While the request will not be granted this year (because you still have 2 Choices available to you), filing a petition now will document the situation you may find yourself in if an additional choice is needed in the future.

QUESTION: Why doesn’t AHAI allow earlier tryouts for CSDHL teams? The clubs in other states seem to hold their tryouts right after AAA tryouts, then start practicing as early as June. That puts Illinois clubs at a disadvantage since they can’t start tryouts until Sept 1.
ANSWER:  This question came from a parent of a Central States player on an Illinois roster.

The CSDHL, or Central States Developmental Hockey League, is a league that operates independent of AHAI.  As long as they adhere to their league by-laws and are not “doing anything detrimental to the sport of hockey”, there is little AHAI can say about the member teams starting dates.  In Illinois we have a positive start date for Tier II and Tier III teams of September 1st, no exceptions.  Other affiliates can determine their own starting dates for their various levels and age divisions. That means they can differ from those of Illinois teams.

If you look to Missouri, they do in fact start earlier.  If you look north to Minnesota, they typically do not start until much later in the fall, like October.  We encourage all teams and other affiliates to start when we do.  Kids should not be playing hockey all summer and the start dates should be “fair” or equal for all teams.  Unfortunately that is not always the case.  While we try to do that for our Illinois teams, all we can do is encourage those in other affiliates, not direct or require them to start after September 1st.

What AHAI is not willing to do is make the same mistake as other affiliates and allow our players/teams to start earlier in the summer to form teams and practice.  If we did that, we would have year-round hockey with the full endorsement and encouragement of the governing body, AHAI.