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Are you and/or your kids new to Hockey?  Well, you probably have a lot of questions.  Hopefully we can answer some basic questions about the sport as it pertains to the Simsbury Youth Hockey Association (SYHA).

1.   What are the different levels of players?

SYHA conforms to USA Hockey and CHC (Connecticut Hockey Conference) guidelines with respect to age groups.  For boys, these age divisions are Mites (8 and younger), Squirts (9 and 10 years old), Peewees (11 and 12 years old), Bantams (13 and 14 years old), and Midgets (15 to 18, fall season only so as not to conflict with the high school season).  Within those divisions, and when numbers permitt, SYHA generally rosters 3 'travel' teams (A, A1, and B) and 2 'house' teams (of equal ability).  Players are assigned to a team after a thorough tryout process which is detailed here.

Girls are welcome to play with the boys or if they prefer SYHA rosters girls teams in the Under 12, and Under 14 age divisions, with A and B 'travel' teams and house teams depending on the number of girls enrolled in the program.

Travel teams are intended for more accomplished players and generally play two games each weekend during the season and participate in end-of-season state tournaments and one or two in-season tournaments.  House teams have a more developmental emphasis, but play a full regular season of games.  Both travel and house teams practice once or twice a week, depending on the age group.  Importantly, there is a team, with a full schedule of games and practices throughout the season, for every skater in SYHA.

2.  What equipment is required?

Hockey players wear a helmet and face 'cage,' a mouth guard, a neck guard, shoulder pads, hockey pants, shin pads, hockey gloves, and, of course, skates and a hockey stick (if your skater is new to hockey, and you're unsure whether they are a righty or a lefty, it's best to purchase a low-cost flat-bladed stick until they commit to one side).  SYHA provides skaters with game socks and game jerseys, but your skater will need a practice jersey and practice socks.  Vincent's Sporting Goods, in town, has a full line of hockey equipment and offers a discount starter package to SYHA skaters (see below for pricing).  There are also pro shops at several local arenas, including the International Skating Center of Connecticut in Simsbury and South Windsor Arena in South Windsor.  Play-It-Again Sports also has a full line of new and used equipment, though players are strongly advised to buy a new helmet to insure that it is certified and safe (other equipment in good condition can be purchased used).  You may also wish to check the many on-line vendors such as www.hockeymonkey.com, www.hockeygiant.com, and www.greatskate.com.  It is critically important, however, that equipment fit properly - though you may be tempted to 'buy big' so your skater can have room to grow, it's best to buy properly fitting equipment, and a trained vendor can help fit your skater.  Again, it is particularly important for the helmet to fit properly and be certified.

3.  Does my skater need to tryout?

All skaters are encouraged to participate in the tryout evaluations for their age division.  This allows the coaches and evaluators to give every skater a full and careful look to ensure that your skater is properly placed on the right team.  Skaters are not required to participate, however, and can join the house program without going to the tryout.  SYHA also runs preseason sessions in each division for skaters to work out the summer kinks and prepare for the tryout. Tryouts are typically scheduled in October (except at the Midget level which begins in August), and the tryout schedule and the preseason schedule will be available on the SYHA website.

4.  What is the in-season time commitment?

For both travel and house teams, families can expect one-two games per weekend from early November to the end of February (except in the case of Midgets).  In addition, travel teams participate in one or two tournaments (including the SYHA-hosted Holiday Tournament in between Christmas and New Years' Day) and in the end of year state tournament.  Because SYHA competes in the Connecticut Hockey Conference, travel time can be as much as 1 to 2 hours to games.  With the exception of Mite House teams, which practice once per week, all SYHA teams practice twice a week.  Typically practices for each team are on a half-sheet of ice:  two teams share a single sheet.  SYHA believes this is the most efficient use of ice time.  Overall, then, most skaters are on the ice four times each week.  SYHA benefits from the availability of four ice surfaces in town, and can schedule convenient and age-appropriate practice and game times.

5.  How much does SYHA youth hockey cost?

SYHA remains one of the most cost-effective major hockey programs in the state.  SYHA works hard to keep costs down, and it is important to recognize that fees are all-inclusive:  families are not asked to buy uniforms or pay tournament fees in addition to the standard fee.  The bulk of the fee goes to pay for ice-time costs which can range from $200 to $400 per hour, depending on the rink (Simsbury Farms, Westminster, Int’l. Skating Center).

Fees vary from year to year.  To see the current years' fees, look for the current Fees document on the Documents tab.

6.  Who are the coaches, and what are their qualifications?

SYHA coaches are all USA Hockey-certified, meaning they have all completed USA Hockey coaching seminars.  USA Hockey is the national governing body of amateur hockey in the United States, from the smallest Mite House team right up to the US National and Olympic teams.  Coaches of Mite and House teams are asked to complete Level 1 certification, but above that age group coaches are required to pass and maintain a Level 3 certification.  Many SYHA coaches have earned Level 4 and 5 certifications.  In addition, many coaches have extensive playing and coaching experience in high school and college hockey.  SYHA is confident that across-the-board, our coaches are as qualified and successful as those in other organizations.  The success of our teams is proof of the quality of our coaching staff.

7.  What is SYHA's coaching philosophy?

SYHA is committed to providing the best overall developmental and competitive experience to young hockey players.  SYHA is not overly concerned with wins and losses, believing that wins come from good coaching, productive practices, happy and excited players, and supportive parents and fans.  In the younger age divisions, SYHA practices equal playing time - meaning every skater on the roster sees the ice as much as every other skater regardless of game situation.  As players move up through age divisions, SYHA practices equitable playing time - meaning some teams may have specialty teams for power plays and penalty killing, but each skater on the team will play and skate a regular shift.  Ultimately, in the Bantam and Midget divisions, playing time is the responsibility of the coaching staff.

8.  Who can I call with questions?

You are encouraged to call any member of the SYHA Board with questions or concerns.  Board members are listed by title and area of responsibility on the website under the Board Contacts menu to the left. For general questions about hockey for new hockey parents or questions about SYHA and the upcoming season, please contact any one of the Directors-at-Large for Coaching members of the Board.

9.  How can I get involved?

SYHA is a volunteer parent-run organization.  There are many opportunities to get involved with SYHA, from coaching, to managing a team (a manager works with the coach on scheduling and other off-ice issues), to volunteering at the annual Holiday Tournament, to serving on the SYHA Board in one of many different positions.  Like any large volunteer youth sports organization, SYHA is always in need of enthusiastic and energetic support on and off the ice.

10.  Is hockey dangerous?

Hockey is a contact sport, and injuries, though rare, do occur.  Parents should be aware that the risk of injury is real.  However, with proper equipment, proper coaching - including USA Hockey's extensive emphasis on injury prevention, and ample practice time devoted to hitting and being hit (checking does not begin until the Peewee Division, so Mites and Squirts are non-checking divisions, though collisions do happen), SYHA believes that players are prepared and protected and the risk of injury is minimized as much as it possibly can be.  If you would like to speak with a board member about hockey as a contact sport, please call one of the Directors-at-Large Coaching found on the Board of Directors Contacts page.