skip navigation

Playing Up/Down

Playing Up

A youth or girls player may play on a team in an older classification only if the applicable Affiliate’s rules or decisions, and the applicable local program’s rules or decisions, permit that player to do so. A youth or girls player residing in one Affiliate may not play on a team in an older classification in a different Affiliate unless both the Affiliate where the player resides and the Affiliate where the player desires to play have granted permission to play in an older classification.

Refer to the Summary of Insurance Coverages for Members, FAQ.

Please check with your Affiliate and/or Association for applicable rules on 'Playing Up'.

Playing Down

Allowing players to play down is not a trivial matter. Considerations extend beyond the excepted player. There are 39 other players on the ice and they also have a right to an expectation for fairness and safety. As in many life situations a separator must be established at some point. Exceptions to that separator create situations where one participant has an advantage over all other participants, creating an inequity that perpetuates unfairness. This exception policy allows individuals with severe medical conditions, the opportunity to experience ice hockey within a safe environment.

In order for a player (of any age), regardless of physical size or skill level, to “play down,” it must be shown by the child’s physician that it is medically necessary for the child to do so. USA Hockey’s current rules do not permit “playing down,” however, in an effort to accommodate disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), USA Hockey has shown its’ willingness to make some (though not all) accommodations, based on a physician’s medical evidence and their statement regarding the child’s safety and health. The doctor (M.D. or D.O.) must detail (in writing) the specific medical condition that causes the child to incur this medical necessity of “playing down.” Players who are granted permission to “play down” should be limited to participation in house and/or recreational leagues and are not eligible to compete in Invitational Tournaments or on a team bound for a National Championship.

NOTE 1: In-house and Recreational teams competing “in their local area” or against teams which are routinely scheduled to complete league play are not considered travel teams unless the league Commissioner or appropriate Affiliate declares those teams as travel competition.

NOTE 2: Simply being “small for their age” or “not very skilled” are not considered to be adequate reasons for granting a “play down exception, since they do not rise to the level of a disability under definitions and current court decisions concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It is the District Registrar’s responsibility to grant “playing down” waivers to any individual who meets the following criteria:

  1. The player must have a debilitating medical condition that necessitates the need for exceptional consideration.
  2. The Parents/Guardians must request a waiver in writing to the District Registrar’s Office, complete an A Typical Medical Condition Release form and attach the documents discussed below.
  3. An attending physician must identify in writing the medical condition necessitating the exception, the number of additional "on-ice aides," if necessary, to ensure the safety of all on ice members including the child and other players, and indicate a willingness to fully discuss the child's condition with myself or my designee.
  4. The Local Association must approve the parents' request in writing. The written approval will stipulate that the child will play in that association’s house/recreational program, the excepted team will not play outside the house/recreational program, the additional "on-ice aides" that the physician indicated were needed to ensure safety in his/her letter will be identified, the officials for all games will be USA Hockey certified, and the opposing team's coaching staff and on-ice officials will be aware of the excepted player's condition, who the "on-ice aides" are and any modified rules to ensure a safe experience for all participants.
  5. The District Registrar’s office will review the above documentation in addition to any other information deemed appropriate to decide the matter. A written response will be sent to the parents, local association and the appropriate Associate Registrar.