It's a debate we've had in our house, and perhaps you too are weighing the pros and cons of a travel ice hockey team versus a house team for your youth ice hockey player. There's a lot to consider, so to help you decide, here's a great explanation from West Genesee Wildcats Head Hockey Coach, Frank Colabufo, regarding the differences between travel teams and house leagues.
Travel Hockey or House League?
by Frank Colabufo West Genesee Wildcats, Head Hockey Coach
Should my child play travel ice hockey or house league?
That question is as anxiety producing as it is misleading. Let’s take a closer look at what each offers and then try to decide what is best for your young ice hockey player.
Do “Travel” ice hockey teams really travel more than “House” teams?
That is a question that has no clear answer. It depends on where you are playing and what your organization decides to do as a house league.
Is Travel Hockey More Expensive?
In many cases it is, but not because of any additional travel. Often, travel teams practice more than house teams and so the cost of ice time is greater. Most travel teams require the players to purchase a team sweatsuit, jacket, or bag so they look the same when they are in the rink. Travel players may also be encouraged to purchase the same color helmets and gloves to match their uniforms. Parents should know what additional expenses they will be responsible for beyond the registration and tryout fees.
What is the biggest difference between travel and house?
Travel teams have tryouts. Coaches will do their best to select the best 17 players in the association at that level to play on the travel team. 17 players assumes 3 forward lines, 6 defensemen, and 2 goalies. Usually, associations appoint highly qualified coaches to coach travel teams. Theoretically, you have the best coaches, coaching the best kids, competing against the best kids on other teams, and getting more practice ice time. Given these circumstances, travel hockey players will have more of an opportunity to develop faster than the players in the house league.
Are there any other major differences?
Yes, playing time. In the house league, everyone gets equal playing time. In travel hockey there are no rules stipulating playing time. Coaches will shorten the bench in certain situations; power plays, penalty kills, end of periods, etc. Some players will sit. Some understand that and some do not.
What if my child is indifferent, yet I think travel will offer him the best chance to improve?
Travel hockey requires a full commitment from the whole family, but it must start with the player. Travel players need to be passionate about playing the game. A lot is expected of them throughout the season. Coaches may expect them at the rink as much as an hour before games and keep them after practice to watch game film or do dryland drills. If they are not fully invested, then house league is a better option.
What if I let my child tryout and he doesn’t make the team? How can I soften the blow?
Parents need to help their children realize before the tryout, that all players develop at different times. The best mite may not become the best peewee. Tryouts are a snapshot in time. Hard work, perseverance, and practice will make a big difference. Most importantly, encourage them to keep playing. While the house team may not be where he or she wanted to play, it is a level that may offer them the chance to touch the puck more and develop skills and confidence that may not have been acquired if they were playing on the travel team.
So, back to the original question, “Should my child play travel or house?” I
If your child is passionate about the game, if as a family you can afford the additional cost and are willing to invest the time, if your child understands that playing time is earned and not always equal, and you are looking for the best skill development opportunity then travel hockey makes the most sense. If what you are looking for is a more recreational experience, where your child can enjoy the game and have fun without the additional costs and pressure to perform, then house league is a better alternative.