Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hockey's Alphabet Soup

As seen in USA Hockey Magazine
  By Christie Casciano Burns

  For people outside of youth hockey, AAA is the number you call when your car breaks down.  AA puts you on a twelve step program to sobriety. A is the grade you want on your child’s report card. But those letters have a whole different meaning to hockey parents.
    USA Hockey designates certain leagues throughout the country to create separate levels of play. Tier 1or AAA offers the highest level of competition with between 60 and 90 games per season!
   “AAA hockey can be a great environment to play and develop for players who want that challenge. Scouts and recruiters will pay the most attention to the AAA level because, by definition, that’s where they will find the largest pool of talented players,” according to Deputy Executive Director of College Hockey Inc, Nate Ewell. 

Aaron Haider’s son Ethan plays goalie for the AAA 2001 Minnesota Blades and says, “It has helped him become the goalie he is today.” Diane Firmani made her son wait until he could drive before letting him join a AAA team because of the hour-and- a-half long drive from Wasilla to Anchorage, and up to $7,000 in costs and fees.
    The intensity of AAA hockey can build players and families, but it can also break them if they’re not careful. “It’s important that families continue to check themselves each season to make sure they are participating in AAA hockey for the right reasons,” said Jim Sarosy, chief operating officer for the Syracuse Crunch (AHL).  Ewell also points out, constantly trying to “play up” at the highest level can sometimes hurt if a player doesn’t get enough ice time.
   “Honestly, it doesn’t make a particle of difference until Midgets,” said Firmani. “At the young levels, it’s merely bragging rights for parents and instant martyrdom. Some parents have refinanced their houses for AAA!”
     Minnesota’s Champlin Park Hockey Association President Peter Williams advises parents to be smart consumers, “Pick a program that has quality coaching, convenient location and predetermined costs. If they ask for an open ended commitment, don’t do it.” William’s children now concentrate on training and play multiple sports.
    Move up the levels – or don’t -- for the right reasons:  for your child, not your ego or your frustrated dreams of professional glory.

   And keep in mind staff writer Mike Morreale’s assessment of hockey alphabet soup, “If you’re good enough, you will be found whether it’s A, AA or AAA. Players aren’t defined by a letter. They define themselves.”  

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