AAA Hockey, also known as “Tier I” is the top competition level available to youth hockey players in the United States. The Tier I AAA designation is established by USA Hockey, the governing body for Amateur and Olympic hockey in the United States. USA Hockey makes all determinations on the youth organizations that are allowed to carry the Tier I designation. These designations are established through USA Hockey affiliates, with the Illinois affiliate being the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois (AHAI).
AAA Hockey comprises the very best players in both the United States and Canada. This level of hockey typically draws very dedicated and committed players and families. The commitment to AAA hockey requires being on the ice 5-7 days per week, includes extensive travel, and also requires a monetary commitment far above the recreation level. Most AAA teams will play anywhere between 55-85 games per year and practice 2-4 times per week. AAA hockey is available for both boys and girls.
AAA begins for boys at the age of 10 and then continues through the age of 18. Each level is designed as a birth year level only until players reach the age of 17. The birth year designations are 10 & under (10U), 11U, 12U, 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U, and 18U (which includes 17 and 18 year olds). AAA for girls begins at with 12U, 14U, 16U ad 19U.”
In Illinois, AAA tryouts are held each year in mid-May for boys 10U thru 14U and all girls teams. Tryouts for boys 15U, 16U and 18U are held in July. Teams are made up from a minimum of 15 players to a maximum of 20 players. The traditional season runs from Sept 1 through March 15. Once the teams are picked in May or July, teams may or may not practice on and off during the summer. Official practice will start Sept. 1. A typical schedule includes weeknight practices and weekend games.
Once the traditional season ends in March most AAA clubs will run a spring program that begins April 1 and runs to mid-May, ending right before tryouts. It is always a very good idea for players who wish to try out for AAA in May to take part in a AAA Spring program with the AAA Club of their choice. In Illinois, unlike AA hockey, AAA players are not limited to two choices. Players can move freely from one AAA club to another after a season is completed in March.
Almost all college and professional players have some if not extensive AAA hockey experience as youth players. AAA hockey provides the best coaching, best competition, and overall best development model for high level youth players.