Zero-Travel vs Travel Teams (Athens Youth Hockey Association | Athens Ohio | Bird Arena)

PrintZero-Travel vs Travel Teams
Some of the most common questions new hockey parents ask are, “will my child have to travel to out of town games, how often will they occur, and how far away will they be?”  Additionally, parents ask what the difference is between zero-travel and team-based travel hockey when it comes to practices and skill development as well as whether or not the AYHA has tryouts at the beginning of a season.

Zero-Travel Hockey
2021-travel.jpgAs the name suggests, zero-travel hockey teams practice at Bird Ice Arena, but as a general rule do not travel for games.  The AYHA attempts to have zero-travel options for each age division when possible, but depending on the number of youth player registrations in a given year, there may be seasons when there are insufficient players to form a zero-travel team within an age division.  While 8U teams are typically zero-travel, there are occasions when 8U teams are invited to a jamboree by other youth hockey associations, or other associations visit Athens for AYHA sponsored jamborees, but attendance at those events by youth players and their families is voluntary.  Additionally, the AYHA typically holds an 8U and 10U invitational tournament at Bird Ice Arena at the very end of the season for youth players to participate in.  Otherwise, zero-travel players and their families can typically expect scrimmages in lieu of games throughout the season.  Zero-travel youth players of all age divisions are also welcome to attend Blue Puck Drop-In sessions at Bird Ice Arena whenever they are scheduled.

defn-jamboree.JPGTravel Hockey 
AYHA 10U, 12U, 14U, and High School age divisions participate each year on travel teams, with the High School playing in the Ohio Scholastic Hockey League and all other divisions playing in the Buckeye Travel Hockey League.  Youth players on travel teams can expect to have the same number of practices as zero-travel players with the same focus on skill development, but with approximately eight home games and approximately eight away games during the season.  To ensure player safety within an age division, youth players whose skills are significantly behind those of other players on a travel team will practice with that team, but they will be regularly evaluated by coaches to determine when they have developed sufficiently before moving into competitive game play.

Depending on how each age division is seeded within the Buckeye Travel Hockey League, teams may have away games in Charleston (WV), Louisville (KY), Columbus (OH), Dayton (OH), Miami (OH), Fort Worth (IN), and points in-between.  All families are responsible for their own transportation to and from away games as well as any accommodations, if necessary.

Are Their Differences When It Comes to Practice?
As part of the AYHA’s mission to grow youth hockey in southeast Ohio, the Association’s focus, whether a player is on a zero-travel or travel team, is always on development of the player.  All youth players within an age division should have essentially equal practice time at Bird Ice Arena, whether on a zero-travel or travel team.  This equal practice time allows each youth player the opportunity to practice skills, play developmental games, and touch the puck as part of USA Hockey’s American Development Model program.  The only significant difference on the ice is that travel teams have the opportunity to play competitive games against other youth leagues where score is kept.

Tryouts vs Open Registration
Many youth hockey organizations in the United States host tryouts prior to the start of each season, where the tryouts are used to form teams with the strongest and most skilled players available.  While this creates formidable hockey teams, it also leaves capable youth players who don’t “make the cut” without a team to play on in September.  

In contrast, the AYHA’s mission and long-standing practice has been to accept all youth hockey players from southeast Ohio through open registrations prior to the start of a season, regardless of skill level.  The Association uses early season practices to evaluate players within each age division and determine the best fit for them on the ice to maximize their development in a competitive environment.  This means establishing groups of youth players with similar abilities not only to work and progress together with their skills, but to also challenge them by practicing and playing with other Association youth players in their age division who may be further along in their development. 

For the AYHA travel teams playing in the Buckeye Travel Hockey League, the Association will have those teams attend an early season seeding tournament with other youth hockey associations. The seeding tournament is a series of exhibition games that are used to evaluate each team within the League and determine those that likely to compete at a similar level, which helps to avoid skill level mismatches between teams during games the rest of the season.  Depending on the number of registrations each season, there may be enough AYHA youth players to form two travel teams within an age division.  In this instance, the Association may form an A-Team and a B-Team based on skill level and have each team compete in the early-season seeding tournament with the Buckeye Travel Hockey League to determine which teams from other youth hockey associations will be a similar competitive match for games throughout the season.

Updated 2021-10-01.