Hockey can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated, but there isn't a better team sport for your child!
It is safer than soccer or softball for both head/concussion risk and orthopedic injuries for young players, and there isn't a faster, more team-oriented, better hand-eye sport out there.
Playing hockey, you will gain a new family. The HTX Storm takes pride in providing a fun and safe environment for girls to thrive - on and off the ice.
Step 1... LEARN TO SKATE (LTS). Regardless of age, if you can't skate - you start here. Most programs will offer age group classes. Your local rink provides these sessions.
Step 2... LEARN TO PLAY (LTP). After graduating from LTS, LTP is offered by your local rinks throughout the season - usually in 8-week blocks.
The HTX STORM has recently introduced a new "ROOKIES" program, ideally done in conjunction with LTP if your schedule allows. Our Rookies program takes place twice a year - each lasting 6 sessions.
Step 3... House Hockey. After a little LTS and LTP under your belt, it's time to join a team and play games. House programs are run by the local rinks, and generally constitute 2 weekday practices and 1 weekend game.
There are two House seasons. Fall - traditionally hockey time - is a long season, from August through the end of February. Then, there is a Spring/Summer season - April through June.
In hockey, teams are generally 2 year age bands - 8U, 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, and 18U.
For the 2023-2024 season, 2015 and 2016 are 8U; 2013 and 2014 are 10U; 2011 and 2012 are 12U; 2009 and 2010 are 14U.
In Hockey, all ages are measured by the birth year.
For competitive balance, USA Hockey allows all-girls teams to play against boys or co-ed teams that are one age group lower than them. As an example, the HTX Storm's 12U House team may be made up of 14U and 12U aged-girls. This is one of the many benefits of playing on an all-girls team.
At the outset of the season, the Storm holds Player & Team Evaluations, where coaches determine the best placement for all our players - what is best for their fun, safety, and development.
Final roster determinations are made by the Hockey Director.
Pathways for all players - recreational and competitive.
Here, there are no "cuts" and all players that want to play, will. Focus is on development, and coaches will generally play all players equally. Positions may be taught and changed throughout the year.
Travel Hockey is a higher caliber of play, and a higher time and financial commitment.
New the 2023-2024 season - for the first time in Houston history, the HTX STORM will field a Tier 2 travel team at the 14U age level. Tryouts were held in June.
"Tier 2" is considered A and AA levels of increasing skill.
"Tier 1" is considered AAA, and is currently only offered by one program in the state - the Dallas Stars Elite (DSE).
SELECT is a stepping stone to the Travel pathway, available to our 12U birth year players. Additional team practices are offered, along with the opportunity to play in 3-4 tournaments - including one out-of-state. Our Select program is meant as a complement to our 12U House team - girls will play on both teams to accelerate their development.
TEAM TEXAS is best described as the state girls program, and all HTX STORM players are encouraged to participate in Team Texas events (tournaments, celebrations, etc.) that are held throughout the year. Every July, the HTX Storm hosts a Team Texas weekend celebration event including 3v3 tournament. Please see the dedicated Team Texas page for more information.
HIGH SCHOOL Hockey in Houston is called the ISHL - Inter-Scholastic Hockey League. STORM Girls in HS are able to play for their local HS Team - though this is a full contact, varsity sport, with coaches often playing preferentially to win. 16U-aged girls can play both 14U House for the Storm as well as ISHL if they are so inclined. New this season, in conjunction with our friends in Dallas, we have formed a 16U/19U Tournament team.
For our oldest girls, we invite them to participate in "Practice Club" with like-aged players to increase their available practice time, and we encourage them to help "student coach" at STORM Practices, or local rinks.
Equipment, at first, can be a little bit intimidating, but also is a lot of fun. Your player will FEEL like a hockey player once they wear their gear for the first time.
Hockey equipment starts in Learn to Play - and is the same gear you will need from that point forward.
1) Helmet. Probably the most important piece of equipment. Important tip... helmets expire. Usually a 5-year life span - it is because the padding hardens over time. A hand-me-down from your college-aged nephew is probably NOT a good idea. There is a sticker on the back with the expiration date; if it has been removed, don't buy it!
Base models are perfectly safe for your 8U player. Your 19U HS player may want something with more adjustment and more expensive. You will buy many helmets for your player over their playing career.
Helmets must also have a full metal cage or face shield. That usually comes down to personal preference. There are some types of cages that are not allowed for USA Hockey Youth play (usually "cats-eye" cages for goalies pop up sometimes) - check with your retailer to be sure.
2) Neck Guard. A required piece of gear in the HTX STORM system. It is optional for USA Hockey play, but we require them for our program. Usually a thin piece of padded fabric that attaches with velcro. More elaborate versions can be found, usually for goalies, and some may be integral to the "Under Armor" that your player will like - and are acceptable to the HTX STORM.
3) Under Garments. There are two pieces - upper and lower. Female players will wear a "jill" as a lower undergarment that has appropriate protection, as well as velcro pads on the thighs for their hockey socks. Their upper torso also needs a long sleeve (usually) "Under Armor" style shirt for comfort.
Often, parents beginning will think their child needs a sweatshirt or pants beneath their pads for warmth - that is almost universally unnecessary. Unless we are playing an outdoor tournament in Michigan in December, no additional clothing beneath the pads besides the undergarments will be needed.
Parents may want to wear a sweatshirt to the rink... but your players won't need one.
4) Shoulder Pads. Hockey shoulder pads fit over the head, and typically fasten beneath the arms with velcro. While there is no checking at any ages for girls/women's play, there will be contact. Shoulder pads should fit comfortably, and allow full movement of the arms.
Occasionally, we see "Lacrosse" shoulder pads show up on new players at the rink. These are NOT allowed, and do not offer the same protection as hockey pads. We usually DON'T see football shoulder pads, but same rules apply - not right.
5) Elbow Pads. A pair of elbow pads are needed that are separate from the Shoulder Pads. Some shoulder pads will have a bicep strap - these are not the same as elbow pads. Some elbow pads can be quite bulky - use good common sense for the right size and fit for your player.
6) Wrist Pads. Another piece of optional equipment, and not required by USA Hockey or HTX STORM. However, they are becoming more common... usually after a player is inadvertently struck by an opponent's stick on the wrist. Something to consider.
7) Gloves. Gloves will provide hand warmth as well as protection from an opponents stick. Most gloves come with ample built-in wrist protection as well (see wrist pads). Hockey gloves will have seams that allow the players hands to flex only in certain directions - so flexibility will become an important factor for your player - be sure to try on a few different models before selecting.
8) Pants (Hip Pads) can tend to be some of the more difficult of equipment to properly fit. The length should cover the top of the shin guards when standing, but not hang up on them when skating or bending your knee. There are differing amounts of padding in different level gear, and most supported by belt and suspenders, some only belt.
9) Shin Guards cover the knee and shin, and should be inside the pant and skate at the upper and lower end. Most have protective padding for the calf too, and are secured by velcro.
10) Socks are part of the uniform in most cases, but for Learn to Plan, a plain generic sock will need to be purchased. They can be jersey material or knit; typically a velcro patch to connect to the undergarments. Knit socks won't have a separate velcro pad, as the entire sock will stick to velcro hooks.
11) Skates proper fitting skates make a huge difference in your players enjoyment. Sharpening must become part of your routine since, younger kids especially, will walk on concrete, kick metal bleachers, step on metal bag handles, and perform any assortment of bad behavior that damage their edge. 1/2 inch cut is typical for most beginners. Once a month at a minimum for house players is common, within a year, your player will be able to tell you when. Or, when you see them falling more than usual... sharpen their skates. "Baking" skates softens the plastic components in the boot to allow them to conform to your players foot - something that can be considered for your player, for new skates especially.
12) Stick - should reach from the ground to their chin when on skate, or their nose when in street shoes. Flex is generally estimated at half of their weight, but stiffer sticks are better for younger players to give better control.
13) Goalies - if you player wants to play goalie - GREAT! - we always need goalies. The Club has loaner gear for the younger players to borrow while they figure out if goalie is really for them. Once they reach that decision, we will help understand and identify good goalie equipment, as this is an entirely other world of hockey equipment.
1) Loaners and Hand-me-Downs. The most economical option. For younger players, we have a fair amount of gear we can loan you. We have a dedicated storage facility near the Ice Skate Memorial City rink where we store it, and the Aerodrome and Sugar Land rinks occasionally have used gear they will loan or gift to new players (or the HTX STORM directly). This is generally the best place to start. The STORM does equipment "swaps" (donate, and collect if you need something) when demand or interest swells. We also have some starter sets for Learn to Play girls that can be provided on a "rent to own" basis.
2) Local Stores. Aerodrome, Sugar Land Ice Center, and Houston Hockey World all have local pro shops for your equipment needs. If you need help sizing, baking skates, or otherwise need a helping hand - this is a great option. Your player will walk out ready to go and happy. The local rinks all help our program in many ways, and patronizing their pro shops is one way we can give back to them.
3) Online. Shopping at Hockey Monkey or other online outlets can offer more variety, and often better prices if you are cost conscious. Hockey Monkey is our partner for Game apparel, and SOME optional "Select" level equipment (helmets, gloves), so if you prefer online shopping for variety and convenience, Hockey Monkey (HM) is a partner to the HTX STORM.
There is an occasional (2-3 times per year) HM "HTX STORM Storefront" that opens for branded apparel, hockey bags, windsuits, and other Storm gear. In those cases, 15% of the proceeds are collected to discount HTX Storm Coaches jackets - to help keep our coaches looking good without a lot of out of pocket for them. This is the only equipment or apparel discount or return the club receives from any of the equipment retail options.
Additionally, DICK's SPORTING GOODS has been an excellent financial supporter of the HTX Storm - having donated over $20,000 in monetary gifts to the program to date. Although the local stores may not carry much in way of inventory, their online stores are starting to provide more options, especially for beginners. We would definitely steer you to DICK's for undergarments, compression socks, and other needed clothing items.
More Questions? Keep reading the website, or please feel free to contact our Membership Director, or our Vice-President who is focused on internal membership issues. Contact information below.
Director of Membership