New Player FAQ
Simply click on a question below to learn more about becoming involved in Travel Hockey.
Of the many sports the youth of America might choose to play, ice hockey may be the most daunting.
So many questions arise when considering playing: Learning to skate, equipment, time commitment and safety. The Lehigh Valley Flames have put together this New Player FAQ to try and help answer some of these questions. Simply click through the questions below for answers or contact our New Player Coordinator, Karen Trackim, via email by clicking here.
Basic ice skating or “open skating” is the place to begin. Unlike all other sports, ice hockey requires this basic skill before playing the game is even possible. Learning to skate is a fun experience and can easily be done through a learn-to-skate program, public skating sessions, and/or private lessons. Some kids start learning to skate as early as 3-4 years of age, but most start between 5-8 years old. It typically takes about 8-10 times on the ice (sessions) before you and your child see enough progress to consider an introductory hockey program like the Lehigh Valley Flames Mite program.
The Steel Ice Center (our organization’s home ice facility) offers public skating sessions and this has certainly been a learn-to-skate option for many hockey players over the years. However, if your intention is for your child to play ice hockey, we believe lessons from a knowledgeable skating instructor in the fundamentals of ice skating is extremely worthwhile. A Learn-to-Skate program is also a fantastic place to start. The Steel Ice Center offers both Learn-to-Skate and Learn-to-Play as part of their basic programs. The Bethlehem Municipal Rink lists the following program offerings on their website, Stick & Puck Fundamentals, In-House Clinics and Power Skating. Click the links contained here to learn more about the Steel Ice Center (CLICK HERE) and Bethlehem Municipal (CLICK HERE) programs. Depending on your child’s age and adaptability, most children participate in a Learn-to-skate program, then transition to a Learn-to-Play program within approximately 1 year.
Once your son or daughter is comfortable on his or her skates, or has completed a learn-to-skate or Learn-to-Play program, you are ready to choose between travel hockey and in-house hockey.
The Lehigh Valley Flames are the premier travel hockey organization of the Lehigh Valley. In 2011-2012, they utilized all three Lehigh Valley rinks for practices and games. More information regarding the Flames can be found at www.lehighvalleyflames.org. Travel hockey consists of teams that are playing at a competitive level and frequently travel to play against teams from other areas (Philadelphia, Delaware etc…). Travel hockey is broken down into the following age groups:
- Mite U6 (age 5-6)
- Mite U8 (age 7-8)
- Squirt (age 9-10)
- Peewee (age 11-12)
- Bantam (age 13-14)
- Midget Minor (age 15-16)
- Midget Major (age 17-18)
In most cases, there are multiple teams at each age level, broken down based on skill level.
In April of every year, the Lehigh Valley Flames evaluates over 300 children for their travel hockey programs. Players are placed at AA, A and B levels, allowing them to experience a level of play based on that individual’s current skill level. If a child is not ready for a program they can be placed at an in-house level, developed and return prior to the December 31st date of that calendar year, or they can re-evaluate for the next season. Games usually run from October through February. Practice starts in August, however, all levels have optional practices during the summer to maintain and improve their skills prior to the official start of the season.
The Lehigh Valley Flames are a part of the DVHL. The Delaware Valley Hockey League is the governing body of almost 30 different travel hockey organizations in Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. The DVHL is a highly competitive league within USA Hockey’s Atlantic District. The DVHL has had representation at a National level with a consistency that rivals hockey’s historic Great Lakes and New England regions. The DVHL and the Flames all play under the banner of USA Hockey (www.usahockey.com), following its rules, guidelines, and development model. For more information regarding the DVHL, CLICK HERE.
Tell me more about the “Mite” program of travel hockey, which is the introductory level of travel hockey for players up to 8 years?
The Lehigh Valley Flames Mite cross-ice and half-ice programs cater to young hockey players from 5-8 years of age. Through the Mite program, our coaching and instructional staff will further develop your child’s skating ability (like stopping and skating backwards) while teaching them to play and truly enjoy the game of hockey. Each player is assigned to a team with a set practice and game schedule.
Mite Program Details:
- The Mite program runs from September to the end of February with breaks around each holiday.
- We enroll new Mites up until December 31st.
- Depending on the time of registration, season fees may be pro-rated.
- The cost of our Cross-Ice (5-6 year olds) is $650/season and the half-ice (7-8 year olds) is $750/season.
- The Mite Program includes approximately 40 practices, 20 games, 1 tournament, and practice jerseys and socks.
- A Mite player can typically be outfitted for as little as $150 (this includes the helmet, pads, skates and stick).
- The Mite program is considered light-travel. This means you will have some away games that are typically around 1 hour away. Most away games are in the Philadelphia area.
The Flames schedule is divided equally between home games in the Lehigh Valley and away games throughout eastern and southeastern Pennsylvania. Travel to most away games is around 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Many teams are closer to Philadelphia, a few are in Delaware, and a few are north of us in Wilkes-Barre. Beyond the regular season games, the Flames play tournaments that last for an entire weekend. Tournaments have been as far away as Pittsburgh, Rochester, NY, and Virginia Beach, VA, and require overnight stays. The Mite program has less travel involved.
Compared to other team sports, hockey is expensive. For the 2012-13 season, Flames fees ranged at the youngest level (Mites): $650, to the highest level (Midget AA): $2360. The main reason for high season fees is the cost of ice time. With two practices a week and sometimes two games a weekend the cost of using the ice rink facilities is an expensive proposition. On top of this expense, parents must purchase equipment for their child. The Flames do not supply any personal equipment to players. The Flames are a not-for-profit organization. All board members are volunteers; we have no employees. All monies taken in by the organization go back toward ice fees and related Flames expenses. Yes, the cost is often more than most team sports, but other sports are rarely as rewarding as the experience of playing hockey. The Flames organization does offer discounts for early payment and also will work with families to arrange a manageable payment program if requested and subsequently approved by the board.
In-House hockey is a program that allows a child to transition from Learn-to-Play to the next developmental step. In-House hockey is run by the rink ownership. Unlike travel hockey, In-house programs are usually divided by age and not by both age and skill level. Additionally, In-House programs play all games at the supporting rink. Rinks who have a large travel hockey presence will work with that travel program in order to teach the principles and systems supported by that program so the child’s progression into that program is smooth.
Travel programs are independent clubs leasing space from the rink ownership. Lite-Travel programs are rink run and therefore can easily underwrite the cost of operation. Cost on the surface appears to be inexpensive; however, there are typically fewer practices and games. Therefore the true cost per hour of ice is similar. Travel programs also have a more extensive infrastructure of skilled, experienced coaches and players available to them. The Lehigh Valley Flames is one of only a handful of clubs having USA Hockey Master Level Coaching and a robust staff mandates regular coaching meetings to establish teaching objectives by age and level to ensure consistency in both player development and team progression from age 6 to 18. The Lehigh Valley Flames are also one of only a few to also provide special goaltender coaching and instruction.
What is the difference between Scholastic Hockey (LVSHL) and Travel Hockey (Lehigh Valley Flames and the DVHL)?
Scholastic Hockey: The Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League (LVSHL) is comprised of local school clubs playing and practicing a shorter schedule, similar to that of a lite-travel team. In Scholastic hockey often the time commitment and tuition is reduced due to the fact that travel is limited as all games are played locally. Some of the Lehigh Valley Flames coaching staff is also present at the scholastic level bringing the coaching infrastructure of a highly competitive travel club to the LVSHL. Many Flames travel players also play on their scholastic team.
Travel Hockey: The Delaware Valley Hockey League (DVHL) is the governing body over the almost 30 member travel clubs (including the Lehigh Valley Flames) with teams from Eastern PA and Delaware. The DVHL is a highly competitive league within USA Hockey’s Atlantic District. The DVHL has had representation at a National level with a consistency that rivals hockey’s historic Great Lakes and New England regions. The DVHL and the Flames all play under the banner of USA Hockey (www.usahockey.com), following its rules, guidelines, and development model.