Dear Ice Dog Families,
On February 22nd, the Northern Illinois Hockey League (NIHL) announced an exciting new level of hockey that will launch during the 2021/22 season. NIHL is the largest youth hockey league in Illinois and they consistently look for ways to improve and innovate within Tier II hockey. The announcement was for an additional level of play called "Premier Select." This will be in addition to existing Bronze, Silver, Gold and Elite levels. Furthermore, there will be Major and Minor levels within Squirt, Pee-Wee, Bantam, and Midgets.
So, what is the difference between Elite and Central States (CSDHL)? To compete with the Central States brand of hockey, which is an application based system, NIHL focused on on-ice performance instead of an arbitrary and political selection process that CSDHL has used. Qualifying for the Premier Select level is solely based on a team’s on-ice performance during seeding round play. In future years, it will be based on the seeding round as well as the teams prior year’s performance. This format will assure that only the strongest Tier II teams in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin (playing in NIHL) will ascend to the highest level of play in the Midwest. In addition, the Premier Level will have longer period lengths compared to Elite and Gold/Silver/Bronze. The Midget level will have an extra 2 minutes per period compared to Elite as an example!
At the end of the season (2021/22) the new Premier Select level’s division will participate in the prestigious and well respected NIHL Blackhawks Tournament. Even more exciting is the cooperation with the Chicago Blackhawks for this Premier Selects level of play.
In order to participate in Premier Selects, a hockey organization CANNOT have any team participate in Central States. This will force programs that have a Central States team at ANY level to make the decision whether they want to participate in a CSDHL league or give more teams the opportunity to participate in a higher level of hockey, Premier Selects. Approximately 30 other organizations have signed the letter of intent which is exciting!
This new offering more closely aligns with the community hockey club model we've long supported. Removing the mystery of the selection process behind the highest levels of Tier II hockey in Illinois allows all teams to determine on the ice the level at which they deserve to play. This Premier Select level will provide an opportunity and a fair process for our players and families; some of whom in the past have felt they needed to leave the club to pursue the highest levels of Tier II play.
The IDHA has made the decision to participate in the Premier Select level for the upcoming season. We will provide more details in the coming weeks as NIHL irons out the final details. You can also follow NIHL on social media for the latest information.
1. Can we apply to Central States in March and then play in Premier Select if our application to Central States is denied?
Answer: No. Applying for or Playing in Central States would disqualify all teams from participating in Premier Select.
2. Are other hockey clubs making the same decision to participate in Premier Select?
Answer: Yes. While a number of clubs will almost certainly continue to participate in Central States in the next season or two, it appears that this new NIHL offering is being broadly embraced, even by a number of clubs that have recently participated in Central States.
3. Will we still have the opportunity to compete against all clubs during the AHAI State Tournament at the end of the year?
4. Will we be able to scrimmage against Central States teams throughout the year?
Answer: Yes, as we have done this year with many teams, increasing (or decreasing) our level of competition through off league games is common practice.
5. For which age levels is Premier Select an option?
Answer: The NIHL Premier Select division will be offered beginning at the Squirt age level continuing up through at least the Bantam age level.
6. How was this decision informed and determined?
Answer: As with all of our important decisions related to the playing of hockey, we leaned heavily upon the Glacier Hockey Professionals to thoroughly review the pros and cons of the new league level. Additionally, we participated in early discussions with NIHL as the structure was being developed and continued to participate in ongoing meetings and direct conversations with the President of NIHL. We also believe, if NIHL carries through with the rules proposed for participation in Premier Select and the other levels of NIHL that CSDHL will cease to exist in the current form within three years.
**Certainly things may be a little restructured due to the new phase mandates for hockey (games), but the program is still a great precursor to the upcoming tryouts for our Ice Dogs Travel Teams.**