Examining relative age effects in the Canadian sport school hockey league


Background: In youth sport, common practice is to divide individuals into age cohorts; however, this strategy can lead to a relative age effect (RAE), wherein there is an overrepresentation of players born early in the cohort and underrepresentation of players born later. In team-based sports, RAE have been exhibited consistently, with strong effects shown in ice hockey. At young ages, a growing trend is for players to combine hockey and academics as a developmental pathway. The purpose of this investigation was to examine RAE in Bantam-level Prep players (Grades 8 & 9) in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL). Methods: Birth dates of male ice hockey Bantam Prep CSSHL players from 2014-2017 were divided into four quartiles, beginning with January to March, and examined for RAE using chi-square analysis. Results: A total of 517 males played at the level of Bantam Prep from 2014 (n = 8, Gr 8; n = 57, Gr 9), 2015 (n = 7, Gr 8; n = 92, Gr 9), 2016 (n = 17, Gr 8; n = 131, Gr 9), and 2017 (n = 23, Gr 8; n = 182, Gr 9). A strong RAE was shown (p < 0.001). Players born in the first and second quartiles (43% and 32%, respectively) were overrepresented compared to players with birthdates in the third (16%) and fourth quartiles (9%). Conclusion: A RAE was prevalent in Bantam Prep CSSHL players and provides further evidence of RAE in youth hockey development.