Rec League Hockey Tiers Explained

Recreational hockey league tiers

In most recreational adult hockey leagues, there are tiers that are used to group players by skill level. However, these tiers aren’t universal across leagues. They may vary from place to place in a few ways. Some will have more or fewer tiers based on their region’s player population, some will have their tiers skewed up or down based on local skill level, and some will use different names for the various tiers.

Why Are There Different Player Tiers?

Player tiers are used in leagues or at specific rinks when there are many players with varying skill levels. If the player population in your region is on the smaller side, or there is only one rink, these tiers may not apply. But when these tiers do apply, the goal is to give every player the opportunity to have fun and play with others at their own skill level. For example, if you are a new player, you will likely have more fun with other new players than you would with ex-pros who shut you out. And it works in the opposite direction as well. Higher-skilled players will generally have more fun playing with and against others who can challenge them.

The ABCD Ranking

Ice hockey league bench

The most common form of rec league player tiering is the ABCD+ ranking. There can be more than four tiers, but in this article, we’ll stick with A through D, with A being the highest and D being the lowest. Keep in mind that these tiers are not definitive. An A or B player in one league may not be the same as in another. The definitions listed below simply represent the average.


Players in A-League are often former pros, semi-pros, or high-level collegiate players. Something to keep in mind about this tier is that you generally aren’t going to move up into it from a lower tier over time. These players have put in an extreme amount of time and effort to hone their skills. And because of that, the barrier to entry into this tier is high.


Those found in B-League may have played ice hockey in college or high school and have been playing ever since. They know the ins-and-outs of the game like the back of their hand and can perform all of the high-leveled maneuvers and strategies. These players just aren’t quite on the same level as the A-League players.


If you have been playing ice hockey for much of your adult life, then you’re probably in C-League in most regions. Players in this league have a solid grasp on the fundamentals, including multiple shooting styles, skating backward, and stopping from a sprint. For most players, this tier is going to be the upper limit for their skill. In order to advance beyond C-League, you would likely have to put a lot more time and effort into practicing than most casual players can.


D-League is for newer players and those who aren’t quite as skilled at the sport. To join a rec league at all, you should already know the basics — shooting, skating, stopping. However, skills beyond these aren’t guaranteed at this level. If you are new to hockey, this will be the league you will start in. And while it’s possible to move up to C-League, if you don’t play or practice very often, you will likely remain here. The majority of players are going to be found in either D or C-league though, so you shouldn’t worry about where you are placed.

Over 45 League

Many ice hockey leagues, including Shinny USA, also have over 45 or other age bracket leagues for older players. These leagues are not necessarily below the other leagues in skill level though. You may find players in them from D up through A-League all playing together. Age-based leagues are a great way to meet other hockey enthusiasts within your age group.

How Shinny USA Uses Tiering

ice hockey equipment adult league

Shinny USA doesn’t necessarily use the ABCD+ ranking system for player tiers. This is because most of the rinks we play at only have one sheet of ice. However, rink captains do take player skill level into consideration when setting teams in an effort to create balance. Two rinks we play at, IceWorks in Aston and Ice Line in West Chester, have four playing surfaces. At these rinks, we hold four games at a time that are separated by skill level. At these locations, it is up to the player to decide what their skill level is and where they will feel most comfortable playing.


Player tiers in recreational hockey leagues are used to match players up with and against others who are similarly skilled. This helps make games balanced and more enjoyable for everyone involved. These tiers generally follow an ABCD+ format, with A being the highest. However, at Shinny USA we don’t use this tiering system in a rigid fashion as many other leagues do. Instead, we try to create balanced teams with a variety of skill levels. And at locations where it is possible, we have multiple games going on for differently skilled players.

Shinny USA

Whether you’re a parent who recently got into hockey after watching your kid’s games or a seasoned veteran of the sport, there’s a place for you at Shinny USA. Contact us today for more information on rink locations and times.