SHAHA Amateur Hockey 101 - The Basics

Most people who are interested in playing hockey have many questions about how the amateur hockey league works. Hopefully this document will provide some basic information about amateur hockey in general and the South Hills Amateur Hockey Association (SHAHA).  If you have any additional questions after reading this, please feel free to email and your question will be redirected to the appropriate Board member that will respond to you with an answer.

SHAHA is a member of the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League (PAHL) whose territory reaches as far as Erie (North), Morgantown (South), State College (East) and Youngstown (West).  SHAHA, through being a member of PAHL, falls under the guidelines of the Mid-American District of USA Hockey.  You can find out more information on PAHL ( or the Mid-American District ( by visiting their websites.

Each amateur organization will hold tryouts for their teams the spring before each upcoming season.  SHAHA historically holds our placement process during the month of April (excluding 8U) so teams can begin to practice, train, develop and bond as a team on their own over the summer if they choose to do so. We hold 8U mite tryouts in August to allow further growth and development time so children are placed properly for their season. Although most teams are built in the spring, rosters can still be added to until December 31st of the current season.

Official team practices start the first week of August, and placement games occur during the months of September and October.  Competition for the amateur hockey regular season typically runs from October through the end of February with the playoff season occurring at the start of March.  Practices for the current season historically end one week after the conclusion of PAHL playoffs.

Amateur hockey divides their teams up by both age and skill.

Age is determined by birth year (Jan. 1st – Dec. 31st).

For the 2022-23 season, birth years are categorized at the various levels as follows:

Mite (2014 – 2018)
Squirt (2013 – 2012)
Peewee (2010 – 2011)
Bantam (2008 – 2009)
Midget (2006 – 2007)
Girls U12 (2010 – 2013)

Within the Squirt – Midget divisions, there are various teams that are placed by skill level. These placements are set by PAHL in September of each season.

Skill divisions are as follows and there can be multiple divisions within each level:

A + (A major)
A – (A minor)

Mite Hockey follows USA Hockey’s ADM model that incorporates small ice games and ADM practices by breaking the ice into six stations. They play their games in a “Cross Ice” jamboree format that encourages more action, decision making, and touches of the puck. There are no standings, scorekeeping, and playoffs the season, and jamborees are limited to 10 per team. Teams are also limited to participating in 4 tournaments during the regular season as well.  For more information on the ADM program for USA Hockey, visit

SHAHA is also proud to boast that we have a strong Girls program as well.  In the past, we have fielded teams at the Under 19, Under 16, Under 14 and Under 12 divisions.  The existence of these divisions rests solely on the decision of the PAHL as long as there are enough organizations fielding a team at each level to have a division.  We have built a future foundation by having a considerable number of girls coming up through our Mite level.   The minimum age for joining the U12 team is to be at a Squirt level playing age.  Also, for those girls that are new to hockey, or too young to play U12, we have started the Pink Panthers program.  This program will run much like a developmental program, and will serve to bring new kids into the sport of hockey and again help to create a foundational base of future U12, U14, U16, and U19 teams.

All SHAHA team practices are held at the Spencer Family YMCA in Bethel Park.  Each team at SHAHA will have two set weeknight times of practice and one weekend slot (Saturday or Sunday until games begin) that will vary in time and will switch between full-ice and shared ice with another team unit.  Mites will have one standard weeknight practice, and one weekend practice slot on Saturdays.  Once the season begins, games will be scheduled on Saturday and Sunday with no weekday games.  With our reduction to one sheet of ice after construction, our weekends will be game-only dates to accommodate the number of teams we have.

Since SHAHA is part of PAHL, games may be played at any of the PAHL organization’s rinks (PAHL Association List). In addition, some teams may decide to enter hockey tournaments throughout the season. This will be at the discretion of each team, and is not covered as part of the standard fee for playing at SHAHA.

SHAHA does allow season fees to be paid in installments through December. In addition, SHAHA provides various optional fundraisers to help reduce your costs, and some families offset their entire season fees through participating in the fundraisers we offer.

If you are not sure you are ready to join a team, we are an active participant in the Little Penguins Learn to Play program offered through Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.  SHAHA also offers developmental hockey classes that meet once a week with sessions typically offered twice per season lasting 9 weeks at a time. Announcements will be made on our website as well when the programs become available.

Again, we thank you for your interest in this great sport and with the South Hills Amateur Hockey Association.

Thank you,

SHAHA Board of Directors