Youth Hockey

Getting your child into youth hockey or youth roller hockey

Most kids find it easy to exercise and be active when the weather's nice and the sun is shining, but winter can be an obstacle to activity, especially in northern climates where snow, wind, and piercing cold are common. Fortunately, such weather is perfect for maintaining ice, and ice is perfect for playing hockey.

Of course, thanks to the invention of inline skates, also known as rollerblades, hockey can now also be played on surfaces other than ice. And, with advances in technology allowing ice rinks to operate even in warmer temperatures, both ice hockey and roller hockey can be year-round pastimes.

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Whenever it's played, on whatever surface it's played, hockey improves full-body coordination, emphasizes teamwork and cooperation, demands physical fitness, and requires strategy, making it a great way to exercise for your child's physical, mental, and character development.

Youth Ice Hockey

USA Hockey is the official governing body for ice hockey in the United States, including youth hockey (aka minor hockey). The divisions start at age 6 and under, though most players are at least 5 years of age. This level is known as "Mini Mite." The 8 and under division is known as "Mite," followed by "Squirt" (10 and under), "Pee Wee" (12 and under), "Bantam" (14 and under), and finally "Midget Minor" (16 and under) and "Midget Major" (18 and under). Midget hockey generally has tiers, with B being the lowest and AAA being the highest. Hockey for those 16 and over is also called "Junior Hockey."

Youth Roller Hockey

Although previously offered through USA Hockey, inline or roller hockey programs are now offered mainly through USA Roller Sports or the American Inline Hockey League. Programs geared to players prior to high school (ages 13 and over) are hard to find right now, but as the sport gains popularity, programs for younger children are bound to become available.

Just because there is no national association or division dedicated to youth roller hockey, however, doesn't mean that there aren't individual programs. Check with your local youth sports association, municipal recreation department, or ice hockey association to find out about programs near you.

Youth Hockey Equipment

As with youth football, youth hockey presents a particular danger of head and neck trauma as the result of collisions. Although contact is generally not allowed at lower levels, players may crash into each other, the boards, or the ice accidentally, so their heads need to be protected. Find a well-constructed, properly fitted helmet -- with a face mask -- to prevent head, neck, jaw, face, and brain injuries.

Other protective gear and equipment required for hockey includes a mouth guard, shin and elbow pads, hockey pants, hockey socks, shoulder pads, an athletic supporter, and a neck guard.

Completing the outfit is the shirt or jersey. Youth hockey jerseys are generally the same for both home and away games and are often supplied by the team. However, players will also need jerseys to practice in. These can be relatively plain but may also be replicas of the official jersey of a child's favorite team or player.