Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Relative Age Effect Reversal among NHL Elite

Fumarco, Luca and Gibbs, Benjamin and Jarvis, Jonathan and Rossi, Giambattista (2016): The Relative Age Effect Reversal among NHL Elite.

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December 31 the first quarter of the year, most likely because they are relatively bigger than their younger counterparts born later in the year. As this Relative Age Effect (RAE) has been well-established in junior hockey and across other professional sports, we argue that the long- term impact of this phenomenon is still poorly understood. Using roster data on North American NHL players from 2008 to 2015, we examine the RAE in terms of birth month distribution and the extent that RAE is associated with points (i.e. goals plus assists) and player salaries. We find evidence of an RAE reversal—that players born in the second half of the year (July-December) score more points per season (29-50% more points) and command higher salaries (30%-50% more salary). Among elite players—the highest scoring and highest paid athletes—the scoring gap ranges between 14% and 26% more points for players born in the second half of the year—whereas the salary gap ranges between 18% and 50% greater salary. We argue that results partly support an “underdog” effect in NHL that is greatest among elite players.

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