Do existing minor AAA teams actually play in a Tier I minor league, at the Bantam or Midget age range, or are they just calling themselves AAA?
North American teams competing for national championships are not classified by any A or B or AA or AAA or BB hockey ridiculousness. National level competition is comprised of tier I hockey teams. Still it’s hard to shake the AA or AAA letters ingrained in the minds of team organizers. The number of A’s given to a team by a rink is purely relative to their local talent pool. It’s easy to assign three A’s to a team in comparison to other teams that travel out of a particular rink. Whether they are good enough to compete in a sanctioned Tier I league is another question. Example: Rink #1 has a lot of kids signed up for Bantam hockey. Players pay a lot more money for a travel team than for a house league team. It makes more money for the league, the travel organization, and the rink, if there are more travel players. More travel teams have to be formed in order to facilitate this, so many different letter levels are arbitrarily assigned to the levels of play in order to sign up more kids. Rather, there should be Tier I Bantam teams, and Tier II Bantam teams and the rest are house league (recreational hockey). Tier II is usually the first year, minor Bantam age group, developing their skills to prepare for Tier I Bantam play the next year. That’s not to say that a minor aged player can’t make the major (tier I) team.
Letters Like AAA Hockey Are Almost Meaningless
Find out about Tier I junior hockey opportunities. Typically an all minor midget team (first year players) would be Tier II hockey, developmental, and those competing in the Tier I league would be major midget. Well planned and staffed organizations develop a team of minors to move up in competitive level in major midget hockey. Find out if that major year would be in a recognized tier one league. Of course skill has to be considered and not just age, so sometimes minor midget aged kids play on major midget Tier I teams.
Tier I Junior Hockey
If you want to play major junior hockey (CHL), 15 years old is when those teams would look at you, maybe 16. They’re less likely to look anywhere but a Tier I level of play. If you want to play in amateur Tier I Junior hockey, then you can get on a team as late as 19 years old in some cases, but keep in mind that the junior hockey ages range from 16 – 20 for the most part, and the positions go fast. They are less likely to sign a 19 year old who can only contribute a couple of years to their success when they can pick 15 – 17 or maybe 18 year old kids to fill the rare vacancies.
The CHL major junior hockey is considered professional hockey (minor) for up to 20 year old players (21 in some cases). The amateur Tier I Junior hockey leagues are CJHL and USHL. Tier II junior hockey in USA is NAHL, in Canada it’s Junior B hockey. Players in North America sometimes move up from Tier II to Tier I junior hockey, then play college hockey or CHL before NHL or other professional hockey.