AAA is the highest level of minor hockey in North America. Parents and their kids commit a massive amount of money and time to get into these programs, and stay there.
But is playing AAA hockey worth it? Let’s find out and answer other concerns you may have.
AAA hockey is absolutely worth it, provided you can afford it, and you join the right program. AAA will instill you with a great work ethic that will stay with you for life while turning you into a better player. AAA is a great stepping stone to help reach your hockey dreams, whatever they may be.
With that being said, you need to remember that not all AAA programs are equal, unfortunately many are run like a business, filling their roster with players who actually belong in AA because youth hockey parents want the honor of saying their kid plays AAA hockey.
The results of this show up around tournament time, where true tier 1 teams absolutely mop the floor with money grabbing programs. Paying AAA prices to have your kid play AA level competition with a bit more ice time isn’t worth it. Do your research on the history and ranking of a program before signing up to ensure you are enrolling in a legit program.
Is AAA Hockey hard?
This isn’t house league. AAA is the single highest level of hockey in minor hockey, with the toughest competition. Yes, it’s hard.
Not only is it hard to make a team, it’s even harder to stay on it. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
It will require a massive time commitment from both the player and their parents, you will miss family gatherings, school days, and a lot of things that regular everyday kids get to do. You will essentially be living at the hockey rink.
Many players work with personal trainers and private coaches year round to ensure their spot on the roster of a good AAA program.
It’s up to you to decide whether you are up for that.
What age does AAA hockey start?
AAA hockey starts at age 9 and goes all the way until age 18. Squirt, peewee, bantam, midget minor 15U, midget minor 16U, and minor midget 18U are the levels of minor hockey which offer AAA programs.
How much does AAA hockey cost?
It’s an expensive sport, the better the player, the more expensive the sport gets. It’s an unfortunate reality of developing a young, talented player’s hockey career. When it comes down to it, how much can parents expect to fork out for AAA?
AAA Hockey costs between $10,000-$20,000 per year depending on your area. Travel, ice time, coaches, meals and fees are all factors which contribute to making AAA so expensive. Fees by themselves will cost you anywhere between $3,000-$6,000.
If you’re looking at these numbers with your jaw dropped to the floor, I don’t blame you. Something to keep in mind is that although not as common, your kid doesn’t necessarily have to play AAA to make it to the NHL, if that is their end goal.
Do you have to play AAA to make the NHL?
A question I see getting thrown around a lot is if you need to play AAA in order to make it to the NHL. Let’s answer this one.
In order to be scouted by the leagues and programs which NHL teams draft from such as the USHL, NAHL, NCDC, and NCAA, players should be playing AAA by the time they are in minor midget. Squirt, Peewee and even Bantam age groups can get by on playing AA because scouts and coaches for these programs which feed into the NHL only start scouting when players get to minor midget AAA.
There are cases where players make it to the NHL without having played for AAA programs, but it’s not as common.
By the time a kid is of age to play minor midget hockey, if they have dreams of making the NHL, AAA is your best bet to attract the eyes of scouts from the next level of hockey, which opens up a faster path to the national hockey league.
AA vs AAA hockey
There are a few key differences between AA and AAA programs. Let’s take a look.
Dedication and professionalism
Kids who make it to the AAA level are expected to train year round with the thought of arriving back to their team as better players. Whereas an AA player may not even start back skating until early September.
The difference between a skilled player in AAA and AA programs is very noticeable. This is because the good AAA programs attract the best of the best from all across the country, whereas AA and even A programs tend to usually be made up of the best players in the surrounding area.
If your end goal is to make it to the next level of the game, whether that be college hockey or other developmental leagues, your best bet is going to be playing AAA either before or once you get to the minor midget level. The coach and scouts of these elite level programs start focusing in on standout players from AAA minor midget teams, and virtually never scout AA players.
Perhaps the biggest difference when looking at AA vs AAA is the cost. Travel, training, coaches, ice time fees, registration fees etc. all add up to an almost absurd amount of money at the AAA level.
It’s an expensive sport we all love to play.
Playing for an AAA club requires hard work, money, time commitment and a positive attitude. It’s not an easy life and requires sacrifice from your entire family.
It’s up to you to make a decision based on your current situation whether it’s worth it for you. If you can swing the cost, and it is something you or your kid are really interested in, then I say go for it.
The life lessons and friends you make along the journey make it all worth it, for me.