Why would I want to play at Ancaster?
The Ancaster Avalanche Girls Hockey Association is a thriving community-run organization. We work hard to ensure that your daughter has the best possible experience both on and off the ice. While hockey is of course our primary focus, we consider our job to also be to help prepare your daughter for the rest of her life. It's a tough world out there but your daughter can stand out from the crowd when she learns about personal responsibility, teamwork, empathy, goal setting, the value of hard work and the benefits of volunteering. This is the kind of experience you get at Ancaster.
What is house league and how is it different from rep?
House league is open to all girls who want to play hockey. In September we divide up the teams so that they are as fair as we can make them. Rep hockey is also open to all girls but you have to be selected for the team based on your skill level, speed, abilities - what we refer to as "merit". Rep teams are chosen in April. There are other differences such as the amount of ice time you get, the amount of travel and the cost. These differences are explained elsewhere. The important thing is that when you wear an Ancaster Avalanche jersey, no matter what level, you represent an amazing organization in a great city. An Ancaster player is proud of the heritage she represents. For more information on House League, contact the House League Convenor: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is DS?
DS or "development stream" is a way for house league players to get a chance to play a few extra games of more competitive hockey. The DS team is chosen in mid-November and starts play in December. It's really good value for your money and has proven to be very popular. There is only one DS team per age division and usually the DS team is comprised of equal numbers of players from each team in that division. Rather than having tryouts, the team is usually chosen by the house league coaches because they know their players quite well by November. If your daughter is interested in playing DS, mention this to your coach. Sometimes it's hard to choose because so many of our girls are very capable players, but knowing that your daughter is interested may help the coach decide.
How competitive is it?
It depends on where your daughter wants to go. If she's just starting, she should play in house league. Our dedicated house league coaches create just the right environment for girls to discover their abilities, to make strong friendships, and to have a fantastic time each and every time they get out onto the ice. All girls are eligible to play in our house league, and they all get equal time on the ice. Ancaster has teams at all competitive levels if your daughter wants to play competitive hockey. The most competitive level across Ontario is called AA. We have AA teams in the Peewee, Bantam and Midget age groups. The next level is called A, and we have A teams in all divisions. Then there is BB, and finally B. The rules are the same at each level, but the pace and quality of play does increase as you go from B to AA. Regardless of level, however, it's same exciting game and the parents love to cheer on their team as they play in the level most suited to them.
At what age can I start?
A few girls as young as 5 play in our Novice division, however the typical age at which a girl first starts playing is between 7 and 11.
I've never played before - am I too old to join?
It does get more challenging to catch up to the other girls as your daughter gets older - 12, 13, or older. Girls coming in at these ages should take skating lessons before they come to the first practice. They should also try to play road hockey with their friends, or try shooting balls at an empty net to get the feel for the game. More preparation is better but willingness to learn and some athletic ability goes a long way towards on-ice success. We never turn away a girl who wants to play hockey in our house league.
What are the age divisions?
For the 2018-2019 season:
Novice - Girls born in 2010 or later
Atom - Girls born in 2008 or 2009
Peewee - Girls born in 2006 or 2007
Bantam - Girls born in 2004 or 2005
Midget - Girls born in 2001, 2002, 2003
Do I have to be a good skater?
If you've never skated before, no worries. Every year when we have our first practices there are a good number of girls who start off wobbly and unsure of themselves. When we ask the girls to skate from one end of the rink to the other, they're the stragglers who don't even make it to the first blue line when the fastest skaters are already at the far end. Every girl on the ice started that way - even our AA players! If your daughter needs a little boost in confidence before she goes to her first practice, buy a helmet and skates and go to any one of the public skates being offered across Hamilton, or take some lessons in the previous year.
Can I be injured playing hockey?
It is possible. Girls hockey does not allow checking at any age but hockey is a fast-paced game and there are sometimes collisions. Especially at the more competitive levels there can be some body contact - though head contact is never allowed and results in an automatic penalty. There are risks associated with playing any sport. The question you must ask yourself is this: Is the risk associated with not playing a sport worse than the risk of playing a sport like hockey? Girls and boys need to be active. It's worth a small risk. And if an injury does happen, every team has at least one staff member - called a "trainer" - who must be female and whose responsibility it is to provide first aid. Every trainer must pass a certification course.
How much does it cost?
Registration for both House League and Rep cost $575 in 2018 - only $525 if you register before the early bird deadline. If your daughter has never played before and you're not sure she'll like it, just register and come to the first couple of tryouts. If she really doesn't like it, we will refund you the entire registration fee. We guarantee it! If you have any questions about our money back guarantee, please contact our house league convenor email@example.com.
Rep hockey costs more - from an extra $1000 per season up to $3600 at the AA level. If you're just starting out, don't buy the high-end skates and sticks. Some parents buy their equipment used at some of the used equipment stores in Hamilton. If your income is low, the City of Hamilton provides a grant to pay up to half of your registration costs. Our Association also has some funds set aside to help girls whose parents need some extra cash to pay the registration. Finally, if your daughter is interested in playing goalie your costs could be very low, regardless of your income level. If you would like to talk to us about your situation you may contact our house league convenor, in confidence. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.
What equipment do I need?
Here is your checklist, in the order that you put them on:
For your very first practice you may not have socks and a jersey. If so, please email the house league convenor email@example.com in advance of the first practice to make arrangements. Many girls will have spare socks and jerseys and will bring them if asked. You'll be getting your game socks and jerseys soon enough so don't waste money buying them for just a few practices.
Can I carpool?
Novice practices often start at 5pm during the week. This can be a challenge for some parents who commute to work or do shifts at work. As they get older the practices start later in the evening. If you know you'll need to carpool occasionally, or if you would like to carpool with your daughter's friend, please email the Association President firstname.lastname@example.org to see what kinds of arrangements can be made. We want your daughter to play so we'll do whatever we can to help out.
Can I join if I live in Westdale, or Dundas, or West Mountain, or even further away?
Absolutely. There is no rule that says you must be a resident of Ancaster. The City of Hamilton does restrict the number of girls we accept from outside the City limits, however. Generally for house league we do not accept registrations from Brantford, Caledonia, Burlington, etc. We may make exceptions but it will have to be for a very good reason. You can apply for an exception to the President email@example.com.
Will my coach bench me if I'm not that good?
Our girls are here to play hockey, not to sit on the bench. And if you're not that strong a player, you're certainly not going to improve if you're on the bench. Winning is great, we love winning, but there's no better way to turn a player off the game forever than to sit her on the bench because the team is down one goal.
Can I get extra training?
Yes. For newer players we offer a weekly, limited enrollment, one-hour training session that will greatly improve your daughter's skating and stick handling. You can find more information about the Instructional Program here.
Can I try playing goalie in house league?
Yes! In fact we encourage it. If you decide to play goalie full time we'll even lend you all the equipment you need, waive half your registration fee for your NEXT year and give you $450 credit for goalie training at an accredited facility. Goalie is a special position and it's not for every girl, but some girls just love the challenge and the thrill of being the last line of defence. Often in the younger age groups the girls take turns playing goalie - usually one game per season. This is a great opportunity to see whether it's for you.
How are house league teams chosen?
Each September we evaluate the players and put together teams that are fair and balanced. All the coaches participate in the team selection process and the Board provides oversight to ensure team balance. Returning players will already have an evaluation from the previous season to help inform our team selections. The evaluations occur during the first few practices in September. Please don't miss those practices. And if you don't know how to put the equipment on, there are always parents who can help.
When are house league evaluations?
They happen in the first few practices in September. Teams are chosen in mid- to late-September and schedules are posted before October.
Are there other girls hockey associations in the area?
Yes, in fact Hamilton has four girls hockey assocations - Ancaster, Flamborough, Hamilton and Stoney Creek. Many other cities have only one girls hockey association - for example Burlington, North Halton (Milton), Oakville, Brantford, etc. Because you have a choice, we consider it our job to prove that we're the best choice for your daughter.
Want to learn more about house league hockey?
Please go to this page for more details.
What is the coaching philosophy in Ancaster?
Regardless of House League or Rep, our coaches are committed to fair play, skills development, team cohesion and having fun.
What is it like to play rep hockey?
Rep hockey is competitive. The teams spend more time on the ice, and they usually build in a component of fitness training along with the usual on-ice skills. Rep hockey requires extra commitment, and most coaches ask the players to sign a commitment pledge at the beginning of the season. Among other things the pledge asks that the players show up an hour before games, that players maintain a fitness regimen over the summer, that players follow the team rules, and that players show respect for their teammates, their parents and team staff and volunteers. Rep hockey is intense. You play at least three tournaments in the season, and if your team does well you may play in the Lower Lakes finals and at Provincials. Winning Provincials is one of the most exciting thing that can ever happen to a young hockey player.
Rep hockey costs more and the coach will provide a breakdown of the costs usually at the tryouts, so you know what you're signing up for. The extra cost pays for additional ice time and referees, enhanced training programs, tournament registration fees and other costs.
How are rep teams chosen?
Most tryouts are run by a professional outside organization that understands how to run drills that will demonstrate most effectively the skill level and strength of each player. This frees up the coach and our independent evaluators to fill out evaluation sheets. As required by our constitution, the teams are selected based on merit. This is most heavily biased towards factors such as speed and skill level but it may include intangibles such as hockey sense and leadership. Each season we do our best to ensure that we have the best team possible in each division. Please note our policy is to never show the evaluation sheets to parents. There are no exceptions to this rule. Don't even ask.
When are rep tryouts?
They start on the Wednesday after the previous season's Provincial tournament, usually mid-April. If you're currently playing in house league and are thinking of trying out for a rep team, ask your coach for an honest opinion. Even better, since rep coaches are assigned no later than February, ask the coach of the team you think you should try out for to come to one of your games and do an evaluation. They're always looking for good talent and they know that an Ancaster girl has had the best training available.