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2020-2021 NHAHA Season Tryouts

UPDATE - 5/29/2020

We’re going GREEN. The Governor announced today that most Southwestern PA counties will move to the Green Phase of the reopening plan next Friday, June 5th.

While we will not be able to begin tryouts right away, this is an important first step! Our board is working diligently along with the rink to finalize tryout dates and procedures.

Please do your part and register for the upcoming (YAY!) season. Now more than ever, it is vital that everyone register online early to help make this transition to the “new normal” smooth and less stressful for everyone. More updates to follow.

We can’t wait to see you at the rink!


NHAHA Statement Regarding 2020-2021 Season Tryouts

Dear NHAHA Families:

We have received many inquiries regarding the upcoming tryouts and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic may have on them. The North Hills Amateur Hockey Association (NHAHA, Pittsburgh Vipers, Viper Stars, and Esmark Stars) and our activities, including tryouts, are sanctioned by our governing body, USA Hockey (USAH).

USA Hockey strongly recommends the cancellation of all affiliate tryouts, district tryouts, district/multi-district development camps for all birth years for the spring and summer of 2020.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our players, officials, coaches, volunteers and families involved,” said Kevin McLaughlin, assistant executive director of hockey development for USA Hockey. “We estimate roughly 9,000 individuals or families are involved in these activities across the country and with the uncertainty of the coronavirus situation we all face and the logistics involved with these events, the leaders in our organization from across the country felt it was important to make a decision now that had best interests of everyone involved, with safety being at the forefront.”

Read the complete statement, and find other valuable information from USA Hockey here:

At this time, all NHAHA (Pittsburgh Vipers, Viper Stars, and Esmark Stars) tryouts are postponed indefinitely. If you have already registered for this season, your registration will apply when the tryouts are rescheduled. As soon as we receive more information or guidance from USA Hockey, and/or new dates are set for the 2020-2021 Season. We will share them here and on our Facebook page.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we all do our best to navigate this unprecedented situation.

Be well,
Heather Ruffner, NHAHA President
and the NHAHA Board of Directors


At this time, all NHAHA 2020-2021 Season Tryouts have been postponed, indefinitely.
Check back for updated information.
Thank you.

Viper Stars Tier II Hockey Teams

The Pittsburgh Viper Stars will be a Tier II select program that will  play an independent travel schedule, as well as participate in the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League (PAHL). 

The Viper Stars program will offer a training program mirrored on the Esmark Tier I program, including training opportunities, both on and off the ice, currently not provided to most Tier II players and programs.

Click Here for more information on the Viper Stars program and tryouts.




Visit the Esmark Stars website for complete Tier I AAA Hockey tryout details
or contact: Dave Kosick, Esmark Stars General Manager @

Players attending Esmark Stars Tier I - AAA tryouts must register through the website.



Please email NHAHA President Heather Ruffner at


A player's division is determined by birth year, as per the USA Hockey Rulebook:

18U (Midgets): 2002 to 2003 birth years
16U (Midgets): 2004 to 2005 birth years
14U (Bantams):2006 & 2007 birth years
12U (Pee Wees): 2008 & 2009 birth years
10U (Squirts): 2010 & 2011 birth years
8U (ADM/MITES): 2012 birth year and later


The Pittsburgh Viper & Viper Stars hockey teams, will play in the PAHL at the AA, A, and B levels.
The PAHL Placement Committee, not NHAHA, determines the playing level for all teams from all associations.

General Tryout Information

  • All players must use the online registration, there is no paper registration available. Computers will be available at the rink for during tryout, for those that do not register in advance. Come early as there may be long lines, and players may not go on the ice before they are fully registered.
  • The USA Hockey IMR Number for 2020–21 is required for registration.  If registering before April 1, 2020 you will be able to use the 2019-20 USA Hockey registration, but the new 2020-2021 number will be required at tryouts. Bring a paper copy of the new registration with you to tryouts. 
  • If the player is new to NHAHA, a copy of his/her birth certificate is required at tryouts.

Tryout Details

Tryout Registration and Commitment fees: 

All players must register online (and pay by credit card) for tryouts.  (ARAMARK/Fundraising credit cannot be used to pay for tryouts.)

A commitment check made payable to NHAHA will be collected the first night of tryouts, but will not be deposited until team placement is accepted.

Vipers AA, A & B fees:
$115 registration fee*
$300 commitment fee** 

PAHL Girls Teams registration fee:
$50 girls team only registration fee*

$115 girls & coed team registration fee*
$300 commitment fee**

Viper Stars Tier II teams registration fee:
$150 registration fee*
$600 commitment fee**


Esmark Stars Tier I AAA teams registration fees:
$150 registration fee*
$600 commitment fee**


Players will not be placed on a team unless they have turned in a commitment check. No Exceptions! 

Using ARAMARK/ Fundraiser Rollover Funds.   You may use ARAMARK/Fundraiser Rollover funds for the Commitment Fee if the funds are already earned or rolled over from last season.
To use "rollover" funds, you must complete a request form at tryouts, and the Treasurer must confirm that you have the funds available.  
ARAMARK or other fundraising roll-over cannot be used to pay registration fees, as you must pay by credit card when you register online.

*Registration fee is nonrefundable under any circumstance. 
**Commitment fee is nonrefundable once team placement has been accepted.

USA Hockey registration (IMR #) for the current season is a requirement to be rostered on a team. It is not part of your season fees to NHAHA, and is not reimbursable. 

Placement on a Team
Team placement will be announced on the website shortly after the last tryout date for each division. More specific information will be supplied at tryouts. You will have 24 hours, after notification, to decline placement on a team. After the deadline, your commitment check will be deposited and will be nonrefundable.

Tier II / PAHL Team Placement:  
NHAHA will make a placement recommendation, but the PAHL determines the final ranking of ALL teams in the league. NHAHA cannot guarantee of the level of play for any team playing in the PAHL. 


USA Hockey / Mid Am Policies

NHAHA will ahere to all policies of USA Hockey and Mid Am in regard to placement of players, including Mid Am Rule 27 regarding players wishing to play up to a division older than thier assigned playing division by USA Hockey:

RULE 27. Skating Up:

The Mid American Hockey Association Policy on skating up is that a player cannot be moved up more than one year in age.  For example, a first year squirt canot be moved to the PeeWee level.  A second year squirt may advance to the Peewee provided the following criteria is met:

Your board must have a defined policy relative to the procedure that the player's parents must follow in order to request that their child play up.

Only requests that have been made in writing to your immediate governing board should be considered.

Players must have demonstrated the skill and mental maturity required to move up.

Your Board should have an evaluation team of coaches (or coach in chief) making the determination and should not include coaches of the teams that are losing or gaining the player.

Your Board must reserve the right to reverse its decision in the event that the player experiences difficulty with the move.


NHAHA Playing Up Policy

NHAHA discourages a player moving from his designated division of play but does not forbid it. NHAHA recognizes that USA Hockey has set down specific age guidelines so that players will have the greatest opportunity to succeed, have fun, and play hockey safely. Keeping in mind that the greatest challenges to a player moving up an age bracket are moving from  Peewee to Bantam and from Bantam to Midget, NHAHA strongly urges parents to consider all possible ramifications before requesting such a move.

The following guidelines are in place to guide the player, player parents, and the organization through this process. In order to begin the “playing-up” process, the player’s parents or guardian must provide the NHAHA Board, through either the President or Head of Coaches, with a written request prior to tryouts. If the player’s parents were unaware of this requirement, the player may attend the first night of tryouts at the older level but must present the required letter before attending the second night of tryouts. The request must provide the player’s age, playing experience and reasoning for wanting to make the move.

Upon receipt of the letter, NHAHA will permit the player to tryout at the older age division. However, being permitted to tryout at that division does not mean that NHAHA will place the player on a team at that level. The decision whether to place a player on the older age division will be made after the tryout process is completed.

Playing-Up Parameters:

  1. No first year player at any division will be permitted to “Play-up” to the next division. (For example: no first year 12U will be permitted to move to the 14U division. This is in accordance with Mid Am guidelines.)
  2.  The player must submit the letter of intent described above, attend the tryouts at the desired division level and pay for those tryouts. The required commitment check must also be submitted for a player to be considered.
  3. The coaches evaluating the player will evaluate the perceived maturity of a player desiring to “play-up” including the physical size of the player in comparison to those he would be playing against as well as the playing skill of the player and his likely ability to be able to compete at the older level. (This is especially important with a player skipping a year at the 14U level to move to a Midget level where they may be required to play against 18 year olds.)
  4. In order to be placed on the top team of the older division the player attempting to play up must place in the top 10% of those players at the older division to have earned a place on the first team. If a player does not make the first team it is deemed preferable for the player to play within the USA Hockey proscribed age group.
  5. A player who is trying out for an older age division may or may not be placed at that division. Therefore, that player’s parents cannot assume that a place will be automatically “saved” for him at his proper age division unless he also tries out at that division. The purpose of tryouts is to evaluate how each player compares to others trying out for the same teams. If the player does not tryout at any division, he cannot be evaluated compared to the other players. Nor can a position be “saved” in the eventuality that the player might want that position. It is not fair to the other players who are trying out to deny them a position because someone else may want it but is not trying out. If a player tries out for the lower division, he must pay for that tryout also, but a second commitment check is not required because he will only be able to commit to one team at the end of the tryouts.
  6. All decisions will stand unless a written appeal is filed with the President of NHAHA. If an appeal is filed, the President will decide the final outcome by any means he/she deems necessary.  
  7. NHAHA reserves the right to deny any move up request not deemed to be in the best interest of all parties.

Unable To Tryout Policy

NHAHA has a minimum of three tryout sessions in order to evaluate each player as accurately as possible. It is strongly recommended that all players attend all tryout sessions in order to facilitate this evaluation process and make it as accurate as possible

However, it is recognized that through no fault of their own some players may not be able to attend all of the tryout sessions. In the event that a tryout session must be missed the evaluating coaches will evaluate that player as best they can from what has been observed and place that player accordingly and the parents will recognize that the evaluators have done the best evaluation possible under a handicapped situation.

If any player is unable to attend any of the sessions, his intent to play for NHAHA in the next season must be shown by registering for tryouts, no later than the first night of tryouts, with a doctor’s excuse stating why the player is unable to participate and the anticipated date he will be able to participate.

At the conclusion of the tryout process:
If that player played for NHAHA the previous season, the Head of Coaches and President working together will consider the written evaluations of the previous season’s coach(es) as well as what team he played on the previous season and, if they deem it necessary talk with previous coaches. Depending upon circumstances which include but are not limited to the number of players participating in tryouts who will be assigned to each team, the Head of Coaches and the President of NHAHA will:

  1. Place the player on what they consider to be the most appropriate team.  OR
  2.  If there is room to add players to each team, guarantee the player in question the opportunity to tryout (in later supplemental tryouts) for any team.  OR
  3. Return the tryout fee with regrets and with the understanding that the player may contact the Head of Coaches and request a placement tryout when the player is able to attend.

If any player is unable to attend any of the tryout sessions but has not played for NHAHA previously, he/she must contact the Head of Coaches and request a supplemental tryout. Contact information for the Head of Coaches is available on the CONTACTS page of this website. 

Post Tryout Placement

NHAHA recognizes that after the tryouts are over there may be reasons to assign or to reassign a player to a team. Following are guideline for possible circumstances.

  1. If supplemental tryouts are held for any team(s) any player may attend these tryouts regardless of whether they are currently assigned to a NHAHA team or not. However, no player will be removed from another NHAHA team if such a removal will cause that team to go below the number of players required to be rostered as a team. If a player is attempting to “play-up” through supplemental tryouts, all guidelines above must be followed.
  2. NHAHA recognizes that a situation may occur during team placement that may cause an individual player to request a “move-up” to another level. A player can request the opportunity to “move-up” if they would be placed at a level which is lower than the level they had played at the previous season.
  3. In any Post Tryout instance, the player must attend a supplemental tryout or be evaluated during a team practice by the coaching staff of that team with prior notification being given to the Head of Coaches that this tryout will occur.  This can only happen if there is room to add a player to the receiving team.