This page provides more information about Acton-Boxboro Youth Hockey and explains how to join the program at various ages and skill levels. If your family is new to town, or you wish to get your pre-school or school-aged child started playing the great sport of ice hockey, this page is for you. Also, please have a look around the rest of our web site to get an idea of the size, structure, and activities of our organization.
Our program provides both boys and girls, ages two to eighteen, from beginners to elite players, the opportunity to learn how to skate, learn the fundamentals of hockey, and play the game at various levels of competition. In youth hockey circles, our program is known as "town hockey," which means the players enrolled in our program reside in local towns only, namely Acton, Boxborough, Harvard, and Bolton, Massachusetts. Our program is regulated by the rules and policies of Mass Hockey and USA Hockey to ensure quality, but more importantly, to ensure a safe and supportive playing environment for all participants. Our program emphasizes fun as much as it does skill development and competition.
Learn to Skate – Beginners start with our Learn to Skate program. We have a fall session that begins in October and a winter session that begins in January. Each session lasts 10 weeks. A skater attends two one-hour lessons per week at our local rink, the Nashoba Valley Olympia (NVO) in Boxborough. Brand new skaters start by pushing chairs across the ice in order to keep their balance. More challenging drills are introduced as the skater advances in skill. In the second session, hockey sticks, pucks, and stickhandling drills become part of the regimen if the child is ready. The youngest participants are not much older than two while the oldest are in the upper grades of elementary school. Go to our Learn to Skate page for more information.
Registration: Learn to Skate registration occurs in September for the fall session and again in December for the winter session. The cost includes a session fee of $215 per skate. Complete Learn to Skate registration information is listed on this web site and announcements are published in the local newspapers.
Mosquitos – The Mosquito hockey program is our in-house program for beginners. Technically, it is a separately run program from ABYHA but it operates in conjunction with our Learn to Skate program. The program is open to all beginner hockey players, boys and girls, who possess basic skating and stickhandling abilities acquired in Learn to Skate. Participants in the Mosquito program are generally between four and seven years old.
Our ABYHA players first gain their love of hockey while playing in their first season of the Mosquito program. The 16-game season runs from November through March with one game every Sunday and one practice every other Saturday. Games are informal and there are no referees or keeping score. There are six teams, each named after one of the "Original Six" NHL teams. The season is capped off with the exciting Caldwell Tournament held on Cape Cod. Go to the Mosquitoes page for more information.
Registration: A player must be enrolled in Learn to Skate to join Mosquitoes. Sign-up information and registration forms are distributed during the fall session of Learn to Skate. The cost is $310.
Mites through Midgets – The majority of ABYHA hockey players are members of one of these travel teams classified by the following USA Hockey age divisions:
Mite – 8 years old and under; Cannot turn 9 during the season before 12/31.
Squirt – 9 and 10 years old; Cannot turn 11 before 12/31.
Peewee – 11 and 12 years old; Cannot turn 13 before 12/31.
Bantam – 13 and 14 years old; Cannot turn 15 before 12/31.
Midget – 15 through 18 years old but cannot turn 18 before 6/31.
These are all coed teams. However, when full-contact body checking begins at the Peewee age level, many girls elect to play on one of our girls teams (see below). Some nevertheless like the physical play and will continue playing on these teams.
For most teams, the season runs from early September until early April. Each team has about one game and two practices per week. The practices include regular team practices, skills sessions, and 3-on-3 scrimmages. Most of our practices are held at NVO or the Valley Sports Arena in Concord. The season is long but ABYHA does recognize that our players participate in other fall sports and allows them to make their fall sport a priority when it comes to scheduling conflicts. Bantam 1 and Midget teams have a shorter season because of commitments to the junior high school and high school hockey programs.
Like most youth hockey travel teams in Massachusetts, our teams within each age division are formed based on the skill and experience level of the players. For instance, the players of the Squirt 1 team are more proficient at hockey than players of the Squirt 6 team. This might be viewed as controversial to some, but is done to maximize the development and enjoyment of all participants. The experience of playing hockey is most satisfying when the players and teams are evenly matched in ability. This system also allows children to start playing hockey at ages older than four to six (when many start) because we have teams that can accommodate beginners at the older age levels.
The coaches and volunteers of ABYHA work very hard to make the player placement process as fair and as equitable as possible. Two factors are used to determine a player's placement. The first is the coach's evaluation of the player from the previous season. The second is the player's performance rating from two one-hour tryout sessions held in March. The tryouts are run and staffed by a professional hockey school and they provide tryout evaluations. This process is by no means a perfect science but ABYHA endeavors to make improvements every year.
The majority of our Mite through Midget teams play in the Valley League. Most games are played at rinks within a 30 minute drive of the Acton/Boxborough area.
Registration: Travel team registration occurs in March for the season that begins in September. The registration forms and a $200 tryout registration fee are submitted. The player attends two scheduled tryout sessions. Team placements are announced in May. The second and third payments of the ice fees are due in July and October respectively. The total ice fees for most teams were $1350 for the 2009-2010 season. The fees for Midget 1 teams is less because they play a shorter season. Understand that hockey is an expensive sport because of the cost of renting ice. In February, look for registration announcements on this web site and in the local newspapers.
Girls – The numbers of girls playing ice hockey has risen sharply in recent years and ABYHA has formed all-female teams to accommodate them. For our coed teams, full-contact body checking begins at the Peewee age level (11 and 12 years old) and many girls don't feel comfortable playing an increasingly physical game with boys. Playing on a girls team, where body checking is prohibited, is the perfect choice. Most all aspects of our Mite through Midget teams apply to the girls teams. The only differences are the girls teams play in the Middlesex Yankee Conference Girl's League and the age divisions have different names. Girls teams use the "under" naming conventions such as U10, U12, U14, and so on.
Registration: Same as the Mite through Midget teams.
Selects – Select teams are essentially regional all-star teams and are not part of ABYHA. Players with advanced skills are chosen play on Select teams but anyone can attend the Selects tryouts. For players of the Mite and Squirt age groups, the player must participate in his or her town program in order to be eligible to play on a Select team. The games and practices of the Select team supplement those of the town program. At the Peewee age level and older, playing on a Select team is a full-time commitment, however some continue to play for their town programs as well. For more information about the Select program and teams, visit the Mass Hockey web site.
The following are recommendations for getting your child playing hockey with ABYHA at the different ages and levels of experience:
Young beginner – For very young children, such as ages two to four, participating in Learn to Skate for the season is sufficient. For ages four and older, start with Learn to Skate and then enroll your child in the Mosquito hockey program at the point when basic skating and puck handling skills have been acquired. When ready, a child then advances to a Mite team in a subsequent season.
Older beginner – An older child, such as fourth grade and above, might feel out of place in our Learn to Skate program among much younger kids, of course they are still welcome. If that is the case, there are area hockey programs that teach older children skating and hockey skills. At this age, it is probably best to skip the Mosquito program and jump directly to one of our travel teams. Although players who can skate are never turned away, a child would find the experience of playing on their first hockey team more enjoyable if he or she possessed elementary hockey skills that include skating backward and basic stickhandling, passing, and shooting skills. Remember, older children with good athletic ability will improve very rapidly during their first hockey season.
Experienced player – Any player who has one or more seasons of hockey experience should attend tryouts and be placed on a travel team.