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Navigating USA Hockey’s Junior Hockey Program

08/30/2017, 1:30pm MDT
By USA Hockey

Which path is right for you? First, families should understand the Tier system designated by USA Hockey

With more than 120 teams in five different leagues spread throughout the entire country, there are many options for players to continue their hockey careers and development at the Junior levels (ages 16-20) within USA Hockey.

Which path is right for you? First, families should understand the tier system designated by USA Hockey, which is based on level of play and operating procedures, reviewed annually. In general, the top players compete at the Tier I level, the next best at the Tier II level, etc.

All three tiers of Junior hockey sanctioned by USA Hockey allow players to maintain their NCAA eligibility status. So what are the differences between Tier I, Tier II and Tier III levels of junior hockey in the U.S.?

Learn About Junior Hockey

Word of Caution: USA Hockey’s standards and tier definitions are different than those junior hockey programs that are not part of USA Hockey. We encourage families to make sure they fully understand the costs and parameters involved with any program they are considering involvement with.

Tier I

League: United States Hockey League

Financial Picture: No cost to the player, including equipment and billet family housing costs.

Tier II

League: North American Hockey League

Financial Picture: Players pay for billet family housing and some equipment.

Tier III

Leagues: Eastern Hockey League, North American 3 Hockey League, Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League

Financial Picture: Pay-to-play and costs for billet family housing, ice time and coaching vary.

States with Tier I Teams:

USHL: Iowa (5), Nebraska (3), Illinois (2), Wisconsin (2), Michigan (2), North Dakota (1), South Dakota (1), Ohio (1)

Total Teams: 17

States with Tier II Teams:

NAHL: Texas (4), Minnesota (4), Pennsylvania (3), Wisconsin (2), Alaska (2), North Dakota (2), South Dakota (2), New Jersey (1), Massachusetts (1), Louisiana (1), Kansas (1)

Total Teams: 23

States with Tier III Teams:

Eastern Hockey League: Massachusetts (8), Pennsylvania (8), New Hampshire (3), New Jersey (3), New York (3), Connecticut (2), Vermont (2)

Total Teams: 29

North American 3 Hockey League: Minnesota (6), Montana (6), New York (6), Texas (3), Ohio (3), Wisconsin (3), Maine (2), Michigan (2), New Jersey (2), Pennsylvania (1), New Hampshire (1), Massachusetts (1), Louisiana (1), Alabama (1), Georgia (1), Illinois (1), Iowa (1), Tennessee (1), Missouri (1), Indiana (1)

Total Teams: 47

Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League: Colorado (6)

Total Teams: 6

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Tag(s): Junior