Your Child’s Future in Hockey

…a Parent’s Guide

By Coach Steve Malley


Remember all those years ago when you and your youngster first entered the world of travel hockey. It was an entirely new world with its own rules and a serious shift in your perception of how far away things are. Well, now that you’re good at being a travel hockey parent, it’s time to ask, does your child want to progress in hockey?

After Midget, what?

Does your child want to play college hockey? If that’s an option you’re considering, then read on.  Otherwise, players should also consider a future in hockey as a coach, a referee or a trainer. Former players are very welcome by all three professions.

If college hockey idea is on your horizon, then now is the time to start making plans. There are new rules to learn and new skills to develop both for yourself and your child. Let’s take a broad brush look and then look at the details.

The Plan

  • Make yourself visible
  • Play to the highest level of your ability
  • Improve your game
  • Live and play in control
  • Good grades and good national test scores
The Choices
  • High school hockey
  • Tier I hockey (AA programs)
  • Prep school hockey
  • Junior Hockey
  • College Hockey

No player will advance in hockey without challenge. Greater challenge equates to more work and, generally, to a greater cost.

What’s Most Important!

Live and play in control—on and off the ice.

(That’s a clear mind; a healthy body; a constructive attitude; and absolutely no drugs—fail a drug test and your hockey is over.)

Achieve your academic potential

Earn a solid classroom GPA and a strong set of national test scores (SSAT/ACT/SAT)

Enhance your playing skills

Not the game count—and remember that skating is the basis for the game. Every player can benefit from skating work.

Grades are THE most limiting factor for players who want to earn admission and play at the prep or college level.


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The Givens

  • The required commitment to hockey only increases for those who play beyond Midgets; without that, only recreational hockey is possible.
  • More colleges and universities are beginning hockey programs each year and they need players.
  • Women’s hockey programs in colleges are expanding and they need players.
  • Hockey players who are good students have more opportunities to play prep school and college hockey.
  • Few hockey players have made the transition to college hockey without the help of at least one committed parent.
  • This paper is not final word, but rather a beginning to help families and players move forward.
  • Without a plan, most players will not play organized hockey after Midgets.
  • It takes considerable time/money/energy to develop and support a hockey player through the Midget level; it is no different beyond!
  • Many players give up hockey at the midget level because of other natural and logical choices they make.


No coach comes to local games looking for hockey players. Players have to be seen to be appreciated. This is one area where the parents need to help.  Remember, not even Wayne Gretzske would have gone as far as he did in hockey without the help of his father.  The tools are the same if your objective is prep school, college or junior hockey. We’re going to use college hockey as an example as we work through each tool.

The Tools
  • College/prep school/junior hockey guide
  • Your hockey profile.
  • Your network
  • Hopefully, a mentor
  • Being seen

Guide Books

Men’s College Hockey Guide Athletic Guide (published annually) Tom Keegan, Flagler Beach, FL 32136 800-255-1050

Junior Hockey Guide Athletic Guide (published annually) Tom Keegan, Flagler Beach, FL 32136 800-255-1050

Prep School Hockey Guide Athletic Guide (published annually) Tom Keegan, Flagler Beach, FL 32136 800-255-1050

Women’s College Hockey Guide Athletic Guide (published annually) Tom Keegan, Flagler Beach, FL 32136 800-255-1050

Annual College Guides (published by Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report and others—available at any good book store.)

Programs Available

At the college level there are hundreds of teams looking for players every year. For women the number of teams has exploded. Two large organizations administer college hockey and our players need to understand that both the NCAA and the ACHA include loads of teams that play at every possible skill level.


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The NCAA is the primary college sport administering body across the nation. The classic levels: Division I, Division II, and Division III are used as the general indicators of skill level. It is important to remember that players have to learn about each school that interests them, because it is also true that the strongest Division III schools have been known to win games over higher level schools. Our players have to learn not to simply plan by the numbers.


The ACHA (American College Hockey Association) serves the growing number of colleges across the nation whose programs are not registered with the NCAA. It is critical for our players and their families to understand that the ACHA includes two (a third may be added soon) levels of registered teams across the nation. These Division I and Division II teams also vary significantly in the level of play, but the Division I teams compare very favorably with many NCAA teams. Top teams in the ACHA have won many games playing against NCAA teams. More of our players need to understand that the ACHA offers a real alternative for players of all skill levels. Many ACHA colleges are also fine academic schools:

Penn State, Delaware, University of Arizona, Duke and the University of Virginia.

Your Hockey Profile

Your most important tool is your hockey profile. A sample profile format is attached. The profile is similar in concept to a resume and is your primary tool for making teams aware of who your child is.

Some helpful tips are:
  • Don’t worry about the absolute accuracy of the statistics.

The coaches know that good records are not kept for Bantam and Midget hockey.

  • Colleges are interested in grades and standardized test scores.

Using Your Profile

You need to develop a plan that suits you. Here are some ideas:

  • Using the Hockey Guide, select the schools your family wishes to consider. Pick at least a dozen schools and not all Division I NCAA. Pick a variety of schools that fit your child’s academic interest and performance across the ACHA and NCAA divisions.
  • Send a letter to each Coach introducing the player and enclosing a hockey profile and a team schedule if you have one. Hand-written letters is best or use a hand-written note on a typed letter. This shows the players personal interest and that it wasn’t just done by Mom or Dad.
  • Keep a log of the teams contacted showing when the letter went out, when it was replied to, who replied, and if they included a survey form.
  • Many teams will include a survey form, which admittedly is redundant to your profile, but send it back, anyway.
  • Now, the school has a file on your child and you have one on them. Drop the teams from the list which don’t respond (that’s why there were so many to start with).
  • Keep the coaches informed of your player’s progress, changes in teams, schedule changes and, especially, when he or she going to be playing somewhere the coach might be able to watch.



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Your Network

Family friends, people from work and even other parents associated with the team form part of your network. You’re not in this alone.  Perhaps there are alumni of one of the schools on your list or even they have a child on that hockey team right now. Don’t neglect working your network.


A mentor is a special person in your network who really can and wants to help your child advance in hockey. Not everyone can find one, but it is a valuable resource. People want to help, if they can.

  • Talk to your coaches/consider former junior/college players!
  • Give mentor the profile and talk with him often.
  • Former coaches may be able to fill this role.
  • Ask mentor to contact teams on your child’s behalf.
How to Be Seen

Coaches who recruit watch lots of games across the country.  These are but a few.

  • Chicago Showcase
  • Hockey Night in Boston
  • USA Hockey national level championship tournaments
  • USA Hockey select camps
  • Top junior team tryouts
  • Prep school games and tournaments
  • High school all star and championship games
  • Midget AAA games
  • Summer skill camps
What to look for in a summer hockey camp
  • Avoid day care and "pro-autograph" formats!
  • Look for coaches from programs or schools the player is attracted to and register!
  • Penn State/B.U./Princeton/Miami (Ohio) run great camps - shop and ask players/coaches!

Which junior tryouts should be considered??

  • Players should attend at least one junior "B" and junior "A" level for the comparison to see where they fit!
  • Avoid the expensive ones, there are others!
  • Talk to players and coaches on which ones are well run!
  • Watch your costs. A week someplace can be expensive! (If far from home.)
  • WARNING! Playing for some Junior A hockey programs will adversely affect your college eligibility! Beware and learn more from the NCAA.

Play at the Highest Level

Coaches look for the following characteristics.

  • Work ethic
  • Character
  • Leadership
  • Intensity
  • Team play
  • Confidence
  • Passing skills
  • Smart play (no dumb penalties)
  • Clean police record
  • Strong academics
  • Skating ability
  • Play away from the puck
  • Strength along the boards
  • Serious attitude (on the ice, on the bench and in the locker room)
  • Speed
  • Size

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Places to play serious hockey

  • Hundreds and hundreds of high schools across the nation play every level of hockey we can imagine from recreational to high pace/top skills. Advise players to carefully consider where they choose to attend high school if playing hockey is important to them and their families.
  • Some 75+ prep schools—primarily in the northeast—offer several levels of hockey and strong academic preparation. They make most graduates very attractive to colleges looking for well prepared athletes who are ready to become strong college level student-athletes. Prep schools are a very expensive but effective way to prepare for college hockey. It is important to remind families that many prep schools have multiple teams so that everyone can play and there is no per se guarantee leading to a spot on a division one NCAA team.
  • The family separation and less family influence in the critical high school years are other costs for such a choice.
  • Believe it or not there are more than thirty junior leagues that play throughout the USA and Canada. These leagues are growing every year. Today there are over 300 such teams at the A, B, and C levels. The level of play varies significantly as do the costs to play and the opportunities available after playing junior hockey.

Every serious Midget hockey player should attend at least one junior tryout to measure himself.

Questions and answers to hockey beyond Midgets

What is my level of play today?

  • Tough to judge yourself!
  • Ask others whose opinions you respect—look for consensus.
  • Personally see junior and college games and candidly place yourself at the right level.

What level do I hope to achieve?

  • After you have assessed your own level with the help of others, see other levels and decide where you want to be (with reason)!

What skill level do I need to achieve?

  • No single answer.
  • A college club team that is not a member of an established league might be glad to have you if you played at all.
  • On the other hand, Boston University, will want to see top level skills and plenty of experience with lots of endorsements.

Will Junior experience help me play in college?

· Yes, the higher level play should be an asset and it will help get a coach’s attention. It has been a valuable step for many top college players.

Improve Your Game

Use The Summer

Players have to make better use of the summer or off season if they plan to continue to play. Take time off—get away from the rink—strengthen and heal the body and the mind—renew the commitment to the game they love.


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After some critical time off, players need to work on several activities which include the following:


Preparation for national testing.

That is SSAT/SAT/ACT etc. In season demands make such studies difficult for most players.

Strength and Conditioning

· To improve their game and to minimize injuries.

· Plyometrics and weight training will help your chances to play serious hockey, but consult a training manual or personal trainer.

Wherever possible this work, safely planned and executed, is a must.


All players know the skills they should work on.

Coaches need to encourage players to do this skill work during the off season. I regularly remind all players that skating is fundamental to the game and that every player could benefit from some time spent on skating techniques. Most coaches would agree with me that they do not teach skating at hockey practice. I’ll go further and say that some of the best skaters I’ve seen play the game took technique lessons from instructors who were often power skating specialists or figure skating coaches. Every player can benefit from skating work in the off season.



Live and Play in Control

Nothing stops a player’s collegiate career faster than establishing a reputation as someone who makes dumb penalties and cannot control himself on the ice.


It bears repeating that grades are THE most limiting factor for players who want to earn admission and play at the prep or college level. You can bump your SAT scores up a little, but if you bomb your grades starting in the 8 th grade, it is very difficult to recover.

Why should a player stay close to their high school college counselor?

· Each counselor is the player’s rep when colleges call; he/she writes your endorsement and reviews teacher recommendations!

· Consider carefully his/her help and acknowledge it!

What do prep schools have to offer?

· Lots of expensive/valuable experience on how to properly prepare student athletes for college hockey programs!

· Most offer top facilities/plenty of practice time/rinks on campus/designated locker rooms, strong coaching.

· A network with certain college coaches!

· Many players attend prep schools for one or two years only! Some accept post graduates too!

· Prep schools are not the only answer.

· They are not desirable or affordable for all families.

· They are not the only routes to college hockey.


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What GPA and SAT ranges do I need to play college hockey?

· NCAA minimums are SAT low end (800) with most programs wanting 1000 and beyond, GPA’s of 3.0 and above are often quoted and not achieved.

· College Hockey Guide includes target SAT levels for many schools.


What is the NCAA clearinghouse?

· It establishes your eligibility to play; it’s important!

· Register through your high school by early in your senior year.

What are the NCAA recruiting guidelines?

· They vary with the level (Division I, II or III)

· Don’t guess!


NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 4043, Iowa City 319-339-3003

NCAA Guide for the College Bound Student-Athlete, NCAA Publications, 6201 College Blvd., Overland Park, KS 66211 913-339-1906



Closing the Deal

How do I judge a coach’s interest?

· Mostly by listening; ask questions and carefully listen!

· How often does he call?

· Does he write?

· Does he encourage you to apply and helps you through the process?

· Does he clearly tell you where you fit in his program?

What is the story on college hockey scholarships?

· Very few!

· Don’t expect one; plan on making it without any athletic scholarship help!

· If you do get one you’ll have a great surprise!

· Only division one NCAA colleges may grant scholarships.

Success Stories

The Preps:

The Hill School, Lawrenceville, Kimball Union, Taft, Northwood, and Northfield Mount Hermon and others in the USA. Upper Canada College, Stanstead College and others in Canada.

The Juniors:

Niagara Scenics, Tri-State Bandits, Toledo Cherokees, Washington Capitals, Sioux City Musketeers, Saginaw Gears, Danville Wings, Lanconia Leafs, and Chicago Freeze.


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The Colleges:

Delaware, Towson, Maryland, Scranton, Rider, St. Bonaventure, Tufts, Bethel, Stonehill, Wesleyan, Plymouth State, Lake Forest, SUNY Buffalo, St. Gustus Adolphus, UMass – Lowell, UMass – Boston, Lake Superior State, Nichols, Amherst, Merrimack, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Connecticut, USNA, USAFA, Union, Providence, Vermont, Sacred Heart, Mercyhurst, Rochester, Bentley, RIT, SUNY Pottsdam, University of Buffalo, Salisbury State, on and on.


Hockey Profile

Name: _________ Date of Birth: _________

Social Security Number: _________ Sex: _________

Home Address: _________

Home Telephone:_________   E-Mail: _________

Father/Guardian: _________

Occupation: _________

Mother/Guardian: _________

Occupation: _________

Present School: _________

School Telephone: _________

Good quality color copy

or photograph

of you in uniform

without your helmet on

Address: _________

Name of Adviser/Counselor: _________

Academic honors and awards won: _________

Favorite courses: _________

A.C.T. Test Scores _________ Registered with the NCAA: _________

Present Grade: _________ Graduation Date: _________ Approximate Grade Average: ______

P.S.A.T. Test Scores: _____ Verbal: _____ Math: _____ S.A.T. Test Scores: Verbal: ___ Math: _____

Height: _________ Weight: _________ Positions: _________ Shoot/Catch: _________

Present Team: _________ League: ______ Division: ______ Coach’s Name: _________

Home Arena: _________ Address: _________ Coach’s Phone: ______________

Hockey Statistics

Year Team Games Played Goals Assists Penalty Minutes

Hockey honors and awards won during career: Strongest Opponents:

Team achievements: Camps and Off Season Training:

Other sports played: Hobbies/Interests:

Other References (Coaches/Advisors/Evaluators):