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Youth and junior hockey is happening in the United States!
In some areas of the U.S., the 2020-21 youth hockey season got underway last weekend, while teams in other areas are gearing up to start this coming weekend or in early-to-mid September. Unfortunately, things are still on hold in some parts of the U.S. due to varying state and local restrictions and guidelines related to COVID-19, but leagues and associations are moving forward with games and tournaments in many areas and continuing discussions to get underway as soon as possible in others.
It looks like the 2020-21 youth and junior hockey season will be a reality in the United States in some form or another, and that’s great news.
While it’s impossible to create an all-encompassing document that outlines what every league in every area of the country is planning as far as the 2020-21 hockey season is concerned, we have provided information below about some of the more prominent and larger junior and youth leagues and what their plans are to provide readers with an idea of what is going on in different areas of the U.S.
The reality is that season start dates are pretty much dependent on what types are activities are permitted by state and local governments in any given area. So, if you have questions about your area, check your state government website as well as the websites for your hockey association, league and USA Hockey affiliate to get updated information.
United States Hockey League (USHL) – Tier 1 Junior Hockey
The United States Hockey League (USHL), the only USA Hockey-sanctioned tuition-free Tier I junior hockey league in the United States, has targeted Nov 6 to start its 2020-2021 season with the plan being for all teams to play 54 regular-season games through April 24, 2021.
Players can begin checking in with their teams Sept. 14, and preseason games should begin in mid-October. All teams will be expected to follow any local, state and federal guidelines as well as the league’s Return to Play protocols, which are still being formalized.
The flow of the proposed schedule will allow for flexibility so that games can be moved to later dates if there are postponements, capacity restrictions or other factors that result in an inability to play games.
A formal release of the complete league schedule is expected in the weeks ahead.
North American Hockey League – Tier 2 Junior Hockey
The North American Hockey League, USA Hockey’s Tier 2 tuition-free junior league, has set Oct. 9 as the start date for its season, with the complete schedule likely to be released by Sept. 1. This week it was announced that the Corpus Christi Ice Rays organization has suspended operations for 2020-21 with the intent of fielding a team in 2021-22. Players on the Ice Rays’ protected roster will be made available to other teams in the league via a dispersal draft. That will leave the league with 26 active teams for the upcoming season.
A comprehensive Return to Play plan is being developed by the NAHL in conjunction with the CDC and its 26 member communities and in consultation with the NHL, USA Hockey and the USHL. As of now, the annual NAHL Showcase will take place Dec. 16-19 at the Super Rink in Blaine, Minn. The 2021 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament will take place Feb. 8-9, 2021, at the New England Sports Village in Attleboro, Mass. and the 2021 NAHL Robertson Cup National Championship will take place May 28 through June 1, 2021, at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
North American Tier 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) – Tier 3 Junior Hockey
The NAHL’s Tier 3 affiliate has announced its intentions to play a full schedule in 2020-21, with a targeted start date of Oct. 2. Similar to its parent organization, the NA3HL is working with its 32 partner communities and other respected hockey organizations to develop a comprehensive Return to Play plan. Although the start of the season is being delayed slightly, the league’s in-season events are set to proceed as scheduled. The NA3HL Showcase will take place Dec. 20-22 in Blaine, Minn., while the Top Prospects Tournament is scheduled for Feb. 8-9, 2021, in Attleboro, Mass., and the Fraser Cup Championship is slated for March 31 through April 4, 2021, in Chicago.
North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) – Boys Tier 1
An affiliate of the North American Hockey League, the NAPHL features 18U, 16U, 15U, 14U and Prep divisions, with teams meeting several times during a season to compete in various showcases around the country. The current plan is for all 10 of the NAPHL’s events to take place as scheduled, starting with the Fall Showcase Sept. 18-20 in Blaine, Minn. Please CLICK HERE
for the schedule of other NAPHL events.
United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL)
The USPHL has more than 60 member organizations spread throughout the United States and offers youth hockey from Squirts through 18U as well as Tier 2 and Tier 3 juniors. Here is the status of the USPHL’s various leagues:
National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) – Tier 2 Junior Hockey
The USPHL announced the 2020-21 National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) schedule last weekend, and it is available for viewing on USPHL.com/NCDC
The new season provides for a full schedule of games beginning the week of Sept. 21 and concluding in mid-to late-March. The 2021 NCDC playoffs are set to begin March 19, with the championship final tournament taking place one week later, starting on or around March 26. The schedules for all the USPHL Premier and Elite, the league’s Tier 3 divisions, are expected to be released shortly with league play expected to begin between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1.
The NCDC season officially gets under way Sept. 22 when the South Shore Kings face the Boston Jr. Bruins at a location in New Hampshire. The NCDC will emphasize regional play this season to minimize overnight stays, with the 13-team league being separated into North and South divisions for the first time.
The first 12 games of the season will be played at various New Hampshire rinks, with one game slated for Norway Savings Bank Arena in Maine. Between the opening of the season and Oct. 9 all games will be played in New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey, but only one of the first 23 league contests will be held outside of New Hampshire.
No league games are scheduled to be played in Massachusetts until Dec. 3, and of the 126 games slated for the months of September through November, only 26 will be played outside of New Hampshire – 12 in New York, eight in Maine and six in Connecticut.
All of the teams will convene in New Hampshire for a showcase Oct. 2-4, and the majority will play in one at the Ice Vault in Wayne, N.J. Oct. 8-11. There also appear to be showcases scheduled for New Hampshire Oct. 31 through Nov. 17-22 and Jan. 7-10 and one in Foxboro, Mass., Feb. 11-14.
USPHL Tier 3 Juniors & Youth Leagues
The USPHL has not announced its schedule for its Premier and Elite Tier 3 junior leagues or its 18U and younger youth leagues, but it is expected that there will be an emphasis on more regionalized play, fewer showcases and a start date for the Premier and Elite junior divisions of around Sept. 25.
The USPHL has posted its COVID-19 protocols for the 2020-21 season. They can be found by CLICKING HERE
Eastern Hockey League (EHL & EHLP) – Tier 3 Junior Hockey
The Eastern Hockey League (EHL), a Tier 3 junior league with 18 teams located from the Mid-Atlantic north through New England, and its feeder league, the Tier 3 EHL Premier, will begin play on Sept. 18. There also will be three league-wide showcase events in the EHL and two in the EHLP.
Postseason play for both leagues is slated to begin in early March, with the 2021 Frozen Finals championship event scheduled for March 24-28, 2021, at Providence College. EHL showcases are set for Sept. 28-30 in Worcester, Mass., Oct. 16-18 in Walpole, Mass. (EHL and EHLP), Nov. 7-9 in Haverhill, Mass. (EHL and EHLP), Dec. 15-17 in Newington, Conn., and Jan. 16-18 in Exeter, N.H (EHL and EHLP).
Atlantic Youth Hockey League (AYHL) – Boys Tier 1
A Mid-Atlantic-based AAA hockey league with teams located from Virginia in the South north to Connecticut, the AYHL faces many scheduling challenges given the varying state-and-local regulations that are in place in the States of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. No firm league schedule has been announced at this point, but play is expected to begin in mid-to-late September.
The Beast Tournament Series – Boys Tier 1
The Beast is an elite showcase series for boys in the 18U, 16U, 15U and 14U age groups located in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States that is entering its fourth season of play and recently released an updated schedule for its 2020 fall season.
Play begins in all age groups the weekend of Aug. 31 with the River Rats Jamboree at various New Hampshire rinks and is scheduled to feature 10 events, culminating with the Beast Playoffs at a to-be-determined date. A complete schedule of Beast events can be found by CLICKING HERE
Boston Hockey League (BHL) – Boys Tier 2
The Boston Hockey League features 20 member organizations fielding boys’ teams in the Mite through 18U age groups. With Massachusetts approving non-contact hockey as of Aug. 17, the BHL plans on starting its season with placement games Aug. 28. For full details and schedule information, CLICK HERE
Central States Developmental Hockey League (CDSHL) – Boys Tier 2
One of the larger and more spread out Tier 2 leagues in the U.S., the CDSHL features 23 member organizations scattered across the Midwest in Missouri, Illinois and Colorado. The league offers Tier 2 competition for boys in all age groups from 10U through 18U. The CSDHL is scheduled to begin play on Sept. 18 this season, with play concluding Feb. 13, 2021, adhering to these league COVID protocols
For more information about the CSDHL and the complete schedule, CLICK HERE
Connecticut Hockey Conference (CHC) – Boys & Girls Tier 1 & 2
The CHC consists of 38 youth hockey organizations that provide opportunities for boys and girls throughout the state of Connecticut. The CHC offers leagues at various levels for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 18. Boys’ play is scheduled to begin the weekend of August 28, with girls’ teams slated to start up Sept. 12.
East Coast Elite League (ECEL) – Boys Tier 1 & 2
The ECEL is a league for Tier 1 & 2 boys’ hockey teams that is based in the Northeast but welcomes member organizations from all over the United States and Canada. League games take place in showcases held throughout the season for ages 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U. At the 15U-18U levels the ECEL will begin play with its Fall Classic Showcase Oct. 2-4 in Massachusetts and hold events in November (Connecticut) and January (Massachusetts) before crowning league champions during the playoffs Feb. 5-7. The 14U division also gets underway Oct. 2.
Eastern Hockey Federation (EHF) – Boys Tier 1
The Eastern Hockey Federation was established in 2004 and has become one of the top youth hockey leagues in the Northeast, with several teams consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10. It has grown to 21 member organizations with more than 6,000 players in Mite through Bantam divisions. League play begins Sept. 5, and all the schedules can be found by CLICKING HERE
. Games will be played according to state and local guidelines at the rinks where they are scheduled.
Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League (EJEPL) – Boys & Girls Tier 2
The EJEPL features 90 partner programs located mostly in the Northeast, including the USPHL Elite 10U through 14U teams, and offers league play for ages 9 through 18 primarily at the AA level and below. Although most of its teams are based in the Northeast, EJEPL events draw teams from all over the United States. Each season the majority of EJEPL games take place during weekend showcases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The league also offers opportunities for girls to play at the 12U, 14U, and 16-19U levels.
This year the EJEPL is scheduled to begin play with three showcases Aug. 28-30. The 13U Diamond 1 Division along with the 10U, 12U and 14U Futures Gold Division will play at Ice-Line in West Chester, Pa., while the 10U, 12U and 14U Diamond Division will be at Iceworks in Aston, Pa, and the 10U, 12U and 14U Futures Silver Division will play at Oaks Center Ice in Phoenixville, Pa.
To find out more about the league and the full schedule for all of its teams, CLICK HERE.
High Performance Hockey League – Boys Tier 1
In 2012 six Midwest high-profile AAA hockey clubs came together to form the High Performance Hockey League. Today the league offers competition in various showcase events for boys in all age groups starting with 10U through 18U. Participating clubs include the Chicago Mission, Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, Honeybaked, Compuware, Chicago Young Americans and Team Illinois.
The league’s 2020-21 schedule has not been posted, and this message can be found on the HPHL homepage
: “We wish everyone the best of health and wellness during this time. The league is working hard to prepare for when the time comes for our teams to be back on the ice skating together and getting ready for another hockey season. Please take this time to reflect on our love for this great sport and our gratitude for the amazing hockey community that comes along with it.”
Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) – Boys and Girls Tier 1 & 2
As of August 21
, ice rinks still had not opened in most parts of Michigan, but policies had been put in place to allow teams to hold tryouts as soon as seven days after rinks opened for Tier 1 (14 days for Tier 2) and to sign and roster players for the 2020-21 season. There is a target regular-season start date of Sept. 1 listed on the MAHA website
as well as policies for team out-of-state travel.
Minnesota Hockey – Boys & Girls Tier 1
Tier 1 hockey in Minnesota for boys and girls got underway the weekend of Aug. 22, with competition weekends scheduled for 14U boys and girls and 15U boys Aug. 28-30, Sept. 11-13 and Sept. 18-20. League playoffs in those divisions are slated for Oct. 2-4, and the Minnesota District Playoffs will take place Oct. 10-11 to determine Minnesota’s representatives at USA Hockey Nationals.
At the 16U and 18U boys’ levels, teams have begun play and will continue until Oct. 25. League playoffs will take place Oct. 30 through Nov. 1, and the Minnesota District Playoffs will be held some time in November. There also is an 18U boys’ fall league run in conjunction with the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. That schedule runs from Sept. 12 until Oct. 25, followed by the playoffs beginning Oct. 30.
On the girls’ side for 16U and 18U, league play also is run in conjunction with the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. League games begins in September and includes 20-plus games in addition to playoffs.
For more information about Tier 1 hockey in Minnesota, CLICK HERE
National Girls Hockey League (NGHL) – Girls Tier 1 & 2
Featuring play in four age groups – 12U, 14U, 16U and 19U – the NGHL runs a series of showcase tournaments for its 27 member organizations
from around the United States. For 2020-21, the NGHL has scheduled its first event for all age groups Sept. 4-7 in Simsbury, Conn. That will be the first of six showcase events that culminate with the Granato Cup NGHL Championship in St. Louis Feb. 12-15, 2021.
National Junior Prospects Hockey League (NJPHL) – Boys Tier 1 & 2
Traditionally this league features AA and AAA boys’ teams from the U.S. and Canada competing in up to four showcases per season at the 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U levels. For the 2020-21 season play is scheduled to get underway for 16U and 18U teams the weekend of Nov. 20-22 at a North Central United States site to be determined. Additional showcases will be held in December in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Oxford, Ohio, with the season finale scheduled for Jan. 8-10, 2021, in Fort Wayne.
for more information on the NJPHL 2020-21 schedule of events.
New England Girls Hockey League (NEGHL) – Girls Tier 1 & 2
One of the top girls’ hockey leagues in the country, featuring more than 30 organizations and 220 teams from all over New England, the NEGHL is in the process of formulating its 2020-21 schedule. The schedule for all age groups should be completed by Sept. 4 and can be accessed by CLICKING HERE
Northeast Pack – Boys Tier 1
The Northeast Pack was created for the 2019-20 season and is a group of five typically nationally ranked boys’ club and prep hockey programs that compete in a series of events throughout that region. Participating programs include Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, Mount St. Charles Academy, South Kent School (Selects Academy), the Buffalo Jr. Sabres and the North Jersey Avalanche.
With the uncertainly of players’ ability to leave prep school campuses this fall, the Northeast Pack has not announced its plans for the 2020-21 season.
Tier 1 Elite Hockey League (Tier 1 EHL)
The Tier 1 EHL features 24 of the top boys’ AAA hockey programs from all over the United Sates. The league offers several highly scouted showcases per year in different areas of the country. Age groups offered are Squirt Minor (9U) through18U.
This year the Tier 1 EHL opens play the weekend of Oct. 9-11, with the 18U teams playing in Chicago and 15/16U in St. Louis. Tier 1 EHL 13U teams have their first event Nov. 12-15 in Detroit, and the 14U clubs also open up in Detroit the following weekend. The 11U and 12U teams are in action Dec. 11-13, with the first 12U event taking place in Detroit and Milwaukee hosting 11U. Also starting in December is the 9U group, Dec. 3-5 in Philadelphia, while the 10U teams face off Jan. 8-10 Detroit.
for the complete Tier 1 EHL schedule of events.