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PLoS One. 2017 Aug 14;12(8):e0182827. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182827. eCollection 2017.

The relative age effect reversal among the National Hockey League elite.

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Research Division RED, National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (STATEC), Luxembourg, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
Department of Sociology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, United States of America.
Department of Management, Brikbeck, University of London, London, United Kingdom.


Like many sports in adolescence, junior hockey is organized by age groups. Typically, players born after December 31st are placed in the subsequent age cohort and as a result, will have an age advantage over those players born closer to the end of the year. While this relative age effect (RAE) has been well-established in junior hockey and other professional sports, the long-term impact of this phenomenon is not well understood. Using roster data on North American National Hockey League (NHL) players from the 2008-2009 season to the 2015-2016 season, we document a RAE reversal-players born in the last quarter of the year (October-December) score more and command higher salaries than those born in the first quarter of the year. This reversal is even more pronounced among the NHL "elite." We find that among players in the 90th percentile of scoring, those born in the last quarter of the year score about 9 more points per season than those born in the first quarter. Likewise, elite players in the 90th percentile of salary who are born in the last quarter of the year earn 51% more pay than players born at the start of the year. Surprisingly, compared to players at the lower end of the performance distribution, the RAE reversal is about three to four times greater among elite players.

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