U9 – what to expect

Hockey is a great activity for kids and parents. At times though those first few ice times can seem daunting particularly as kids move from the U7 to U9 level. Unlike U7 that is run in groups by the NMHA, U9 is likely your child’s first real hockey team experience. In order to help make the experience as rewarding as possible from day 1, here are a few things to expect and prepare for. 

  • Prior to the season, make sure your child’s equipment still fits. They grow quickly and there’s nothing more painful than skates that are a size too small A quick double check prior to the first ice time will go a long way to avoiding any first ice time pain. 

  • The U7 program is run as group skills training where children are placed together for the year and receive instruction from the U7 coordinator and their team of NMHA coaches. In U9 your child is assigned to a team. All their ice times will be with that team, both practices and later on games.  

  • Teams at the U9 level and above are made following a sort-out process. A sort-out is nothing more than a series of drills and games helped to evaluate the different levels of skill and aims to place kids of similar skills at similar levels. This helps players develop and grow together at the appropriate place throughout the year. There are three weekends of sort outs. Each player will be assigned one ice time per weekend. You will be notified about each weekend’s ice time at some point during the week prior to each weekend. It is important to attend the sort out ice time you are assigned as each week is a progression, designed to eventually end up with well-balanced teams and a fun, challenging environment for the season. 

  • Prior to sort-outs taking place, the NMHA offers all kids at the U9 and U11 level up to 4 “Pathways Skates”. These skates are offered as part of Hockey Canada’s Pathway program and are aimed at ensuring that all kids have the opportunity to have ice time prior to any formal evaluation or sort-out. These skates are completely optional and aimed solely at providing an opportunity to get back out on the ice and participate in a few drills and small games prior to the season. 

  • Your U9 Director will email you in September with your first sort out times. They will also solicit interest from parents to help coach and volunteer with the team. Even if you haven’t coached before, don’t let that stop you. The NMHA has resources to help you learn the role and will ensure you receive the training and certification you need.  

  • Following the sort-out process, your child’s coach will be in touch to introduce themselves, provide you with your team level and number, and let you know the first scheduled ice times. They will also likely ask for volunteers to help support the team for the year both on and off the ice.  A successful hockey team requires an all hands-on deck approach. Even if you’ve never been involved in the game before, there is always someone to help support you in a volunteer role and it goes a long way in creating a great experience for all the kids. 

  • You’re now off and running with your season and your coach will provide more details on the schedule and expectations for the year. Each team sets a small team budget for the year in order to help cover costs that are not covered by your registration fees. These “team fees can cover team activities (parties and gatherings), additional ice-time if desired, team equipment (cones, pucks, etc.), and end of year gifts for the team, among other possibilities. Any funds that are not used are refunded back to you at the end of the year. 

  • As you’re enjoying the year, keep in mind that kids play for fun no matter what the level. Your child’s team is run by volunteers and things would not be possible without them. 

We hope you have a great season!