The one thing that sets hockey apart from other popular sports in the United States is the variety of avenues your child can potentially take once they reach high school. Football is arguably the most popular sport in the United States. Once a football player reaches high school age they'll play for their high school up until it's time to graduate. Hockey is very different in this regard.
Many kids decide to play house hockey in a relaxed environment where playing the game is more important than winning at all costs. Some kids decide they want to challenge themselves and opt to play travel hockey. These kids usually have some natural hockey ability and have the potential to play beyond high school.
Some kids play AAA Hockey which consists of the highest level of youth hockey in the United States. These players are the cream of the crop and have collegiate, and sometimes professional potential. In hockey, once a child reaches high school age they can continue to play in either of those three levels (House, Travel, AAA) as well as two other. Junior Hockey or High School Hockey.
We have focused on AAA Hockey and the ability to be drafted by a junior league after the first year of midget minor hockey (15 years old). Players of the highest caliber have the potential to be drafted into one of the many junior leagues. In the United States, the highest level of junior hockey is the United States Hockey League (USHL). The USHL drafts some of the best high school hockey players in North America. Players are considered amateur in the USHL and it's very common for some of them to be offered scholarships to play hockey at the college level after graduating high school.
The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) is the highest level of junior hockey in Canada. It consists of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Western Hockey League (WHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Each league holds drafts every year for the some of the best 15 year olds in North America. The key difference of the OHL in comparison to the USHL is that players are considered professional once they play in the OHL and not eligible to play collegiate hockey in the United States. This is obviously an important factor for ANY player in making a decision of where to play hockey.
Many regions of the country with a strong tradition of fielding high school hockey teams. Some high school programs have a strong history of producing a laundry list of future NHL players. High school hockey players will typically retain their amateur status so they have the ability to play hockey once they reach the college level. There are varying level of high school teams. Some compete on the highest of levels with the best teams in the country while others compete against only local competition. Regardless, it's important to understand the difference between high school hockey, house hockey, travel hockey, AAA hockey, and junior hockey.
It's important to remember that playing hockey at the junior level typically requires a full-time commitment to the sport. While finishing their high school education is obviously a high priority, hockey is a full-time job as well as finishing their education. It takes a significant sacrifice on the part of the player as well as the family.
Regardless of the path your childs would like to take, hockey is one of the few sports that allows you to compete past high school in a professional level as well as a recreational level.