1: Active Start Stage (6U & Learn to Skate)

The objective of this stage is to design activities that help children to feel competent and comfortable participating in a variety of fun challenging sports and activities.

The focus is the initiation of fundamental movements including running, jumping, kicking, throwing, catching, swimming, sliding etc. Exposure to a broad base of movement activities.

2: FUNdamentals Stage (Play to Learn, 6U & 8U)

The objective of this stage is to continue to develop fundamental movement skills, general athleticism, and begin to learn and acquire basic hockey skills (skating, puck control, passing and receiving, shooting, body contact, and goaltending). This is the time when a foundation is laid for future acquisition of more advanced movement abilities and hockey skills. A basic understanding of the game is also introduced, including rules and team concepts.

3: Learn to Train (10U & 12U)

At this stage, participants continue to develop movement abilities across multiple sports and in a wide variety of environments. In ice hockey, players continue to increase their attunement to the appropriate environmental cues that allow them greater movement adaptability and hockey sense.

In late specialization sports such as ice hockey, early specialization can be detrimental to later stages of development. Participants should develop a solid base in a variety of sports in each of the physical literacy environments (e.g. swimming, athletics, gymnastics & skiing/skating).

4: Training to Train Stage (14U & 16U)

Good practice and training habits are developed during this stage. On-ice and fitness training programs should be individualized. While formal competition is included, the focus remains on learning the basics through training, with competition results being of secondary importance. Training volume will increase as athletes progress through the stage. Towards the end of this stage, athletes will likely begin to specialize in ice hockey. However, it is still recommended to participate in at least one complementary sport.

Sampling and Specialization: Although it is encouraged that athletes continue to participate in complementary sports for overall athletic development, lifestyle and social aspects, this is also the age when children should have the opportunity to either choose to specialize in a favorite sport or continue in sports at a recreational level. During late adolescent years (15-17) they have developed the physical, cognitive, social and emotional and motor skills needed to invest their effort into highly specialized training in one sport.

5: Learn to Compete Stage (18U & NTDP)

The objective of this stage is to prepare athletes for the competitive environment, continue to refine technical adaptability, ancillary skills and develop the physical attributes.

This is the time to optimize general athleticism and fitness and to begin to specialize in ice hockey. Training should be individualized to the athlete’s particular needs in each facet of performance – technical, tactical, physical and mental, with the understanding that these areas are highly interdependent. During this stage, training volume and intensity increase, so incorporation of recovery methods and monitoring is important. The training season is longer, and event specific. Competitions and tournaments become more important and the focus starts to shift from development to performance. Athletes learn to prepare for competition, and learn to handle competitive pressures in any situation. This is the time to consolidate individual strengths and rectify weaknesses.

6: Train to Compete (20U Juniors and NCAA)

The objective of the Train to Compete stage is to transfer from the training environment to a competitive environment. Players must consolidate technical skills, and maintain ancillary skills and underlying physical capacities (e.g., strength, speed, etc.). The competitive performance should be predictable and appropriate.

During the Train to Compete stage, training volume remains high while intensity increases with the importance of competitions. The training is usually 10 months of the year. Players will usually be required to move away from home for training and competition environments that fit this level of athlete development. The training is individualized to the player’s particular needs in skill development, mental preparation, fitness and recovery. Players need to continue to consolidate individual strengths and rectify weaknesses.

7: Train to Win (International)

The stabilization of on-demand performance characteristics and excellence with the highest level of performance in professional hockey, the world championships and Olympics.

The Train to Win stage is the final phase of athletic preparation. Maturation is complete and all the performance factors should be well-established to optimize performance in national and international competitions. The athletes in this stage will be the performers in the highest level professional league and at the highest international level for the next four years and beyond. It is important to build a winning strategy with these athletes, and to individualize training and recovery programs to prevent overtraining, injury, illness, and under-performance.

8: Hockey For Life

The objective is to enjoy life long physical activity in hockey through participation and recreation. Child participants are encouraged to enjoy the spot, participate for the FUN of the game, experience the benefits of being part of a team and have the opportunity to move into the competitive track if they decide to.

Adult participants are encouraged to make the transition from competitive to recreational hockey, participate in age group competitions, enter sports related careers and give back to the sport through volunteering. A positive experience through sport is the key to retaining athletes after they leave the competitive stream.