The Finnish Ice Hockey Association divides minor hockey players into two groups: underage and school-age. Although the youngest juniors are still in school, children above the age of 16 are called juniors. G-minors and F-juniors are the minor and junior hockey levels (age 9 and younger) respectively. The same rules apply at both levels.
There is no age limit for minors. However, most teams will not allow players to compete if they are too young or too old. For example, a player can be as young as 14 years old but cannot be any older than 21 during season play. A player can also be as old as 33 but cannot be any younger than 18 in training camps and pre-season games. These are the oldest ages that can be used by referees when calling penalties under the FHA guidelines.
In addition to these limits, some teams have their own internal rules about age. For example, some teams may prefer not to play players who are at least five years older than them or who weigh more than 210 pounds (95 kg).
Most children will start playing minor hockey between the ages of 4 and 6. In fact, many families with younger children will keep their older child off of the ice until he or she is 7 or 8 because there are so many people on the ice at once. While this is common practice in other countries, it is not necessary in Finland.
However, like with many aspects of young athletics, there are no perfect one-size-fits-all solutions. Youth athletes in the USA Hockey system are classed based on their birth year. However, an 8U player born in January 2009, for example, is several months older than teammates born near the end of that year.
The new youth hockey levels are virtually the same as the previous ones—the main difference is that the names have changed. For those who don't know what they've been missing out on, here's a short rundown of the youth hockey age categories and the names that used to be connected with them: Mini Mite (ages 5-6), Mite (ages 8–12), Squirt (ages 9–10), Peewee (ages 11–12), and Bantam (ages 11–12)
Minor hockey levels in the United States are as follows: 5–6 years old (Levels A) Squirt (Levels AA, A, B) (AAA, AA, A, and B) 3–4 years old (Levels C) Tee-Ball (Levels CC, CD, CV) (CCC, CCD, CVC) 2–3 years old (Levels D) Pitch (Levels DD, DM) (DDD, DMD) 1–2 years old (Level E) Stick (Levels EE, EG) (EEEE, EEEG)
In Canada, minor hockey is divided into three levels: Minor (Level M), Junior A (JAA), and Junior B (JB). In most provinces, players must be at least 14 years old to play Junior A. The exception is in Quebec where players can start playing Junior A at 12 years old if they live in an area that sponsors ice sames or at 13 if they do not.
In Europe, minor hockey is divided into four levels: U8, U9, O1, and O2. Like in North America, players must be at least 10 years old to play O1 and O2.
USA Hockey's Current Youth Hockey Age Groups Age Group: 11-12-Age Division: 12 and Under (12U) Age Group: 13-14-Age Division: 14 and Under (14U) Age Group: 15-16-Age Division: 16 and Under (16U)
The age divisions are the same as those used by USA Hockey's older programs. A child can play in only one division at a time. For example, a player who is 13 when the season starts can't also be playing in the 11-12 division.
There are three levels of play in youth ice hockey: pee wee, bantams, and midget. In most states, the lower the number, the younger the player can be allowed on the ice. Midget hockey is played by children between the ages of 10 and 14; bantam hockey is for players between the ages of 8 and 10. Pee wee hockey begins when a player is just 5 years old and ends when he or she is 16.
In most states, bantams and midget teams are separate from the pee wee team. The midget and bantam games are usually held on smaller surfaces than the pee wees'. There are some states where all three levels of play take place on the same ice surface during the same game. This is called open house hockey.