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The History of AA

By Tony Scott, 02/26/19, 4:45PM CST


Brief look at how AA hockey formed in Minnesota

Prior Lake won the final PeeWee "A" state title in 2012 in Alexandria

An imperfect process for an imperfect game

In the Summer of 2012, the Board of Directors of Minnesota Hockey voted to subdivide PeeWee and Bantam A hockey for playoffs (Regions and State tournament). The main purpose was to follow the state high school model in Minnesota of AA and A and give more players a taste of region and state play. Seven years ago, it was not the intention to divide regular season between AA and A play as much as it currently is today. Minnesota Hockey wanted classified AA and A teams playing one another even in regular season district play. After one season, districts quickly divided the A teams and the AA teams. Associations started running AA and A tournaments for each class of groups.

The AA and A split meant that more Metro teams would get a shot at Region play than the previous years. Unlike the A and B Region seeds, where teams are slotted in a rotating fashion each year, AA would have to be different. With eight non-North Districts and 24 teams, the math would be simple-three teams per district. However, District 4 (southwestern Minnesota) had zero AA teams, and District 9 (southeastern Minnesota) had one or two, leaving 22 slots for six districts to play for each year. In year one, the tournament committee kept their original Region seeds and sent the three and four seeded teams to the West Region in St. Cloud. This Region,  with two weaker number-one seeds became a more attractive Region than the South and the East. Teams began to abuse the system to go to St. Cloud for an easier road to state.

At season's end in 2013, the leadership of Minnesota Hockey circled the wagons and voted to disperse the 24 non-North seeds via coaches ranking system. For three seasons, this system eased any confusion on who was going to make it. If you were one of the best 20 teams in the Metro, you would make it to the Regions. If you were 21 to 30, your fate rested with a panel of eight coaches.

Buffalo is the #1 seed to Regions from District 5 in Bantam AA

For the most part, the system worked. After three years, the most vocal outcry was the loss in value of year-end district tournaments and AA not playing A teams because it couldn't help their "ranking." Detractors of this system also felt that teams were now gaming the system by shortening their team's bench to boost ranking status for a higher seed to Regions. 

In 2016, the Board of Directors at Minnesota Hockey voted to bring on a modified system which was a hybrid of the current A/B system and district seeding. Unlike the A/B system, where districts are given a set number seeds depending on the year, AA districts were awarded seeds based on the number of teams in their District. For example, District 8, a larger district numbers-wise,  has six teams to Regions and a smaller district like District 5 has two.

If you read the rules for AA Regions below, you will see they are a little confusing to understand.

This past Sunday night, the PeeWee AA regions were released along with 100+ other teams from around the state, plus the Bantam AA regionals which had not been released.  Needless to say, it can be a hectic time for the staff at Minnesota Hockey. An error was noticed and fixed. People on social media began to cry foul about the South Region being weighted unfairly.  All the while, the Bantam AA Region seeds had not been posted. After an hour of calm, it was announced that a third and final revision would be made on Monday morning for the PeeWee AA. An adjustment was made, and the rules and seeds were executed to the letter of the law.

Edina is headed to east to the East Regional in Woodbury in BAA

What got missed in this very small ordeal in the landscape of hockey and the reason we are drafting this article is there was absolutely zero collusion or malice done by Minnesota Hockey. 

Adjustments made by Minnesota Hockey had nothing to do with getting the brackets fair or balanced. Often times, there are very unbalanced Regions with several top ten teams not making it to state.  Their rules are complicated and very difficult to understand, an error was made...twice. Give them a break. 

The system in place for AA and A/B are set up to have geographic inclusion from the entire state. The North/Olympic Regions are set up for this purpose. Besides that, the rotation of districts to Regional play is mostly random in nature. 

Can there be a better system put in place? Yes.  That said, even the most well thought out and "fair" proposal will be seen as flawed. 

Until the perfect system is found, teams and players will have to learn to understand that life isn't fair sometimes and that adversity as hard as it is to accept is one of life's greatest teachers.

MN Hockey Rules for AA Regions

District 8 Champ Woodbury is headed to Blaine for Regions

Source Minnesota Hockey

Peewee & Bantam AA Regions – South/East/West Format

1. The South/East/West Regions will consist of Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 & 10. Each of these districts will advance at least one team to regions (assuming they have AA teams). Additional region seeds will be awarded proportional to the number of AA teams in each district to fill out the 24 teams. When the total number of teams is finalized, the Competition Committee will determine district allocations and seeding based on criteria below. Districts will be notified of seeding to the three region tournaments after all district tournaments are concluded. Tournament hosts must block rooms if the location is not in the metro area.

2. The host districts will have their #1 seeds in the tournaments they are hosting.

3. The other districts' #1 seeds will be placed in a region via a blind draw.

4. The remaining teams will be seeded according to the following:

• Districts will not have their #1 and #2 seeds in the same region
• #2 seeds will be placed in a region via a blind draw
• A district's #3 seed won't be placed in a region with that district's #1 or #2 seed. If required, adjustments will be made to assignment of #2 and #3 seeds to maintain equal relative strength among the regions.
• As possible, a District's #4 seed will be placed with their #1, a district's #5 seed will be placed with their #2, and a district's #6 seed will be placed with their #3 5. First round pairings will be set up according to the following:
• #1 seeds will be placed via a blind draw. If there are two #1 seeds, they will be placed in the 1 st and 3rd quarterfinal games. If three #1 seeds, they will be placed in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarterfinal games.
• A district's #1 seed will play the highest numerical seed in the region
• A district's #4 / #5 seed will be in the opposite half of the bracket as their #1 seed
• The remaining #2 seeds will be placed in quarterfinal games via a blind draw
• The #2 seeds will play the highest remaining numerical seeds in the region

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