We'll discuss the high-level player and the mid-level player commonly referred to as tier 1 and tier ll.
Reality checkThe Plan
Many families believe the path for their child playing at the next level begins early for their future NHL star, at mites and with a strict diet of tier 1 "AAA" club hockey, and ultimately mandatory preparatory school "Prep". In their case, the only acceptable "path" for these families, (you'll hear the term path a lot throughout youth hockey)
will begin or end with some form of "A" level junior hockey and/or the final prize of landing a scholarship at an NCAA division l, or worst-case scenario NCAA division lll college hockey program. Further along in your child's hockey development, you will be presented with what is sold to you as "the best chance for your player to reach the next level". The advisors who will sell you a bill of goods and proclaim it's your only real opportunity at finding the best Jr or college hockey program for your child. Beware of the advisors, there are exclusive companies and independent representatives who convince families to pay hundreds, if not thousands for the advisor to do the research and groundwork for you. At this point, your family will have been around youth hockey long enough to have networked, gathered resources, and formed enough allies to help guide your way through exploring those junior and college opportunities independently. There are enough widely available resources via social media, on the public internet, and directly to college coaches that there will be plenty of choices to choose from helping you act as your advisor for your child.
Now, the next question is, after spending upwards of $75,000 to $100,000.00 or in many cases much more over the course of 8-10 years between year-round travel hockey programs, clinics, and high school/prep hockey. What if there is no opportunity for a scholarship or to play Jr hockey? What NHL team is drafting my kid?The Cold Hard FactsDo many NCAA student-athletes go on to play professionally?
Fewer than 2 percent of NCAA student-athletes go on to be professional athletes.
Additionally, how many hockey players play D1? Six NAHL athletes were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft, while more than 230 athletes committed to an NCAA Division 1 program. Outside of junior hockey leagues in the US, Division 1 college coaches focus their recruiting efforts on elite international athletes. The quality of the education among these athletes is normally focused on the students with higher GPAs, specifically above 3.5. Colleges and Universities are not looking to waste a scholarship on a student who performs poorly in their academic studies. Further, college coaches do not want those same students who they cannot trust will always be academically eligible due to poor study habits and grades.The Reality And Truth*THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART -
Unless a college or Junior coach/scout reaches out or touches base with the player or family member individually, one on one, there is no interest. Legitimate interests will not require prospects to pay money to try out with a college or Junior hockey team.
The majority of kids aren't going to the NHL or playing NCAA Hockey, but there are still opportunities and choices. Once this is accepted by parents, they can move on to its reality.
Don't be fooled, don't let anyone tell you your child has to do this or that, or follow this path or that path to play hockey at college. First and foremost, be realistic about your kid's talent. No, your kid isn't going to the NHL, no they most likely aren't getting a scholarship to play for an NCAA hockey program. But can they still play college hockey? The answer is yes, however this is still a lot faster-paced and higher-level talent than what your player will be used to. They will be playing with 18 to mid/late 20's men. Let your kids dictate how they play, support them and provide them guidance but don't force them down a path you want and they aren't aware of. Don't live vicariously through your child thinking they are the "next protege". Every parent thinks their kid is the best but again be realistic, they're the best at their ability, not somebody else's you want them to possess.The misconceptions and assumed path or requirements to qualify
Is the ACHA my child's only collegiate opportunity to play for a legitimate National Title? NO! There are dozens of other leagues which play under the CHF, "College Hockey Federation" at very well-known top-level universities and colleges. Do the homework, it isn't that involved and is quite easy.
- No player has to play tier 1 youth hockey to play in college
- No player has to go to prep school to play in college
- No player has to play any level of Junior to play in college
- No player has to have a specific "required" hockey path to play in college
- All College and University club hockey teams are a combination of former Junior hockey players, tier 1 hockey players, prep school hockey players, and tier ll hockey players at both A and AA levels
- If you want to continue to play club hockey in college reach out to the colleges. The administration office will put you in contact with the team president and/or coach, 99% of the teams are run exclusively by the student team members
In the end, there are so many necessary individual qualities that make up a D1 hockey player. Only a handful of those college players will get drafted, some will be free agent signings but the very large majority of them will wind up playing pro if they choose to continue down that path at the ECHL or lower level. Not making it to NCAA hockey doesn't mean your kid is a failure, there are so very many local youth hockey stars who chose to move on after graduating high school. They hung up the skates for good and gave up their dream to play at college. Or in some cases, many of the kids still wanted to play but it was their parents who didn't believe playing club hockey at college is good enough and is beneath their standard of what is considered acceptable.
Choosing to continue playing College or University D1, D2, & D3 club hockey is because you still have a love, respect, and admiration for the game. Your child has the opportunity to live out their dream with no burden to play. They play because they want to and at the same time they are getting a high-quality education which helps them grow as adults.