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Juniors in Canada

06/10/2020, 7:00pm CDT
By Matt Carey

Opportunities north of the border

about the author

Matt Carey has been involved with hockey for nearly 45 years as a player, coach at U8 through Tier 1 midget major, founder of Team Wisconsin, USA Hockey Coaching Education Clinic Presenter & Evaluator for District Camps, and parent of youth hockey players.

He grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and currently resides in Colorado.

Sometimes a person will leave home to find the right opportunity. Whether it’s for a job, school or even hockey.  Let’s take a look at junior hockey in Canada. 

Junior hockey in Canada can be divided into two main classifications: (1) lose NCAA eligibility or (2) retain NCAA eligibility. Each classification has multiple leagues, and they are geographically located from coast-to-coast. 

Major Juniors, sometimes referred to as Tier 1. Teams in this classification are in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). The CHL has sent more players to the NHL than any other league in the world.  There are 60 teams, with 52 in Canada and eight in U.S., divided into three leagues.

Please be aware, a player will lose his NCAA eligibility if he plays a game (exhibition, regular season, playoffs), stays at training camp longer than 48 hours at the team’s expense or if he signs a player agreement/contract.  However, a player can play up to 10 games in the CHL and still be eligible for ACHA (Club) college hockey in United States.

Listed are the three CHL leagues:

  • Western Hockey League (WHL).  22 teams- 17 in Western Canada, 5 in Northwest Pacific United States.
  • Ontario Hockey League (OHL). 20 teams-17 in Canada, 3 US.
  • Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). 18 teams, all in Canada. 

Each league in the CHL provides some form of college scholarship.  In the WHL, for every season a player plays, they receive a full year guaranteed scholarship, including tuition, textbooks and compulsory fees, to a post-secondary institution of their choice.  The value of the WHL scholarship is based on the annual published cost of tuition and fees at the publicly funded university in the player’s home state.  In some Standard Player Agreements (SPA), the player could have two years of scholarship for the first year because one year scholarship may be granted for signing the SPA.   

Junior A, sometimes referred to as Tier 2 or Provincial Juniors. Teams in this classification are in the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). It is important to note, players in the CJHL are eligible to play college hockey in United States.  Ten leagues stretching from coast-to-coast.  Not all ten leagues are equal regarding the number of players they send to NCAA, and player fees differ between each league and teams. Each team is allowed up to six US born players.  

CJHL leagues listed below are from west to east:

  • British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). Regarded as the best in CJHL
  • Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) 
  • Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL)
  • Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL)
  • Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL)
  • Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL)
  • Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL)
  • Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL)
  • Ligue de Hockey du Quebec (LHJQ) 
  • Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL). 

If an opportunity to play junior hockey comes from north of the border, you will now be more informed! 

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