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Age Division Changes For 2018

MSGHL Member Associations,

At the Fall Meeting on September 9, 2017 in Breckenridge, the league members voted to change our historical U14 Division to a U16 Division, with some stipulations. Before getting to that, a brief review of the age divisions within the MSGHL.

Four years ago, the MSGHL had teams in four age divisions: U12; U14; U16; and U19. Three years ago, the U16 division was dropped, in large part because many U16 teams were comprised almost entirely of double-rostered players from U14 and U19 teams. What remained after the dissolution of the U16 division were U12, U14, and U19. The U12 and U19 age divisions draw from wide age ranges. U12 can see players from 7 years old, on up to 12 years old. U19 sees a similarly wide age range, from 15 years old, to 19 years old. The U14 age division, by contrast, has a narrow age range from 13 years old, to 14 years old, and is the most difficult age division in which to have a reasonably deep bench without double-rostering U12 players, and that goes even for healthy programs. In fact, one of our strongest programs was unable to enter a U14 team in the MSGHL this season, and those 13- and 14-year- olds that they did have in their program were going to play up on their U19 team.

This issue with the narrow age range for the U14 division and its small rosters and short benches was contemplated two years by the MSGHL, and a U15 age division was considered (for 13- to 15-year- olds), in the hope that rosters would balance out better. In the end, USA Hockey nixed the idea, and there is no provision to create a U15 team within USA Hockey’s registrar system. So the MSGHL member associations got creative in our Fall meeting this year, and a proposal was advanced by a member, and approved by the membership by a roll call vote.

The particulars of the change that occurred last Saturday is that the MSGHL is dropping the U14 age division, and adding a U16 age division, with the membership’s agreement that the earliest birth year on a U16 roster is 2002. The U16 division is a de facto U15 division for the 2017-2018 playing season. One immediate effect of the vote is that another team has been added to the “middle” MSGHL age division, a U14 team with years of history in the league.
The membership felt that such a change, abided by the associations, accomplishes several objectives. First, it helps stabilize member hockey programs by making available more players, helping to ensure the health of teams in our former U14 division. Second, the change accomplishes what the league sought to do a few years ago in the forms of a U15 division, only to be denied by USA Hockey. With the membership’s agreement to abide by the birth year limitations, we are able to create an age division that is more sensible and realistic. Third, it helps to save some players in the game, those young U14 who—to remain in the game—would have had to play boys hockey (many of those girls are in the MSGHL because they prefer to play girls hockey once body checking is permitted at the Bantam level in boys hockey), or be forced to play up on a U19 girls team just to be able to continue to play girls hockey. The league thinks that this change in age divisions helps preserve girl hockey players at an age when many leave the game, due to shrinking options.
With the U16 division come some small changes. For instance, league game times called for 14-minute stop periods for U14, but U16 calls for 15-minute stop periods; however, the ice time required to accommodate the U16 games is the same as for U14 (75 minutes). Due to a USA Hockey rule change, icing was to be charged against a short-handed team for U14 and under; that rule does not apply to U16. Associations, please alert your coaches to the aforementioned changes.
The discussion at the meeting revealed that associations will handle the change in a variety of ways. Some programs have large enough player bases to maintain the U12/U14/U19 age divisions internally, while others can enjoy adequate benches by double-rostering 15-year- old U19 players to the U16 team. How individual associations handle this change is their option, but still falls subject to the birth year agreement (2002 and younger) and the league’s double-roster policy (4 per game; for more details, see the updated MSGHL rules.)
Experience tells us to expect the unexpected, that we did not think of everything. The membership asks that any unforeseen circumstances be resolved in the spirit of girls recreational hockey, keeping in mind that the greater good is served we put the girls first, giving them a friendly, yet competitive, environment for girls to play youth hockey.
The league expects this change to be effective permanently, but we will review the change at the Spring meeting.

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