We recently posted a comprehensive run-down of the different minor hockey levels, and one inquisitive commenter asked how these divisions got their somewhat peculiar names. What a fun question! I’m just the type of history nerd who loves finding out the answers.
As it turns out, it was a bit tough to dig up the dirt on who exactly came up with these names, but I did unearth a few gems like what a Bantam is, exactly. Check it out:
Initiation (called Mini Mite in the United States) and Novice (called Mite in the United States)
These names for the beginner and early levels are pretty straightforward. These levels are for young kids still learning the basics.
Atom (called Squirt in the United States)
Growing up I always thought this was spelled ‘Adam,’ like the name, because that was how everybody pronounced it. An atom is the smallest unit of matter that defines the chemical elements.
Atoms are basically the building blocks of the Universe. This level is for age’s nine to ten, so maybe the name is referring to the pivotal age when the foundations of a young hockey player’s game are cemented. ‘Atom’ is certainly the most mysterious minor hockey name, so if anyone in the comments knows about its origins please let us know!
A common English phrase meaning “tiny” or “for children.” Once you know that, it’s easy to see how this came to be applied to a minor hockey division, although I’m not sure the 11-to-12 year old Peewee set would appreciate this.
A Bantam is a kind of miniature poultry, and also WWII British army slang for soldiers between 5 and 54 ft. tall.
First used in 1839 to refer to a tiny, biting insect.
Hopefully this helps, and, again, if you know anything else about the origins of these names or about general minor-hockey history, don’t hold back!