RAE

It is the time of the year and the World Junior Hockey Championship has begun. It got me to thinking about an article I wrote sometime back on talent identification and in particular the Relative Age Effect. For those who do not know what this is, here it is in a nutshell.

What this is that players who have an early birth month in their age bracket often get selected over those who have a later birth month. I can honestly tell you that I never looked at a birth month when selecting a player. I was looking for talent. Who could play and who could not at that moment? I now wonder how many players I missed because I was not paying attention to long term improvement.

In the hockey world, I have never participated in a talent selection seminar, nor do I think that the hockey brain trust has ever equipped Coaches with this tool. Coaches usually base their talent selection on the knowledge that they have accumulated from playing with talented players, playing for Coaches who were good or not so good, or sitting around with hockey people having a cold beverage. Most Coaches in hockey today would be classified as “Hunters and Gathers”. They look for the best already developed talent versus finding the best talent.   It is not the fault of the Coaches; it is the hockey governing bodies who fail to give their well-meaning volunteer Coaches or paid Coaches the tools to identify talent. In competitive organizations it is of the utmost importance that Long Term Athletic Development starts at the lowest level. Athletic Development and game education is priority one. Secondly, it must spelled out that legacies mean nothing. Just because an athlete played last year, he/she does not make the team this year. This gives opportunity to athletes who were late developers to challenge for spots.

So as a fun exercise I looked at the World Junior rosters of the Canadian and United States. I found some interesting information.

25 Man Roster
Birth Month Team Canada Team USA +/-
January to March 54% 24% +30%
April to June 12.50% 20% -7.5%
July to September 21% 36% -15%
October to December 12.50% 20% -7.5%
Forwards Team Canada Team USA
January to March 65.00% 21%
April to June 7.0% 29%
July to September 14.00% 29%
October to December 14.0% 21%

Defense

Team Canada Team USA
January to March 50.00% 25%
April to June 12.5% 12.5%
July to September 25.00% 50%
October to December 12.5% 12.5%
Goal Team Canada Team USA
January to March 0% 33.5%
April to June 33.3% 0%
July to September 33.3% 66.5%
October to December 33.3% 0%

Team Canada has a much older lineup with 54% of the roster being born in the first quarter of the year. Team USA has a much more balanced line up This is reflected in the USA forwards who have very little variance from quarter to quarter. While team Canada has 65% of their forwards with birth months in the first quarter of the year. This may indicate that they would like to play a little more of a physical and speed game with the anticipation of playing the USA at some point in the tournament.

On the defensive side of things Team Canada ices, a more mature line up with 50% being born in the first quarter of the year leaning towards a more physical game. Compared to USA who has a 50% of their defense born in quarter three. This indicates a younger defense which could reveal a depth issue that team Canada maybe able to expose should they meet, or this pod of USA defense just could be very highly skilled because they made the team with a later birth month. Your guess is a good as mine!

To end the year, I just thought I would throw out this little bit information for you to digest as this is the only hockey we maybe watching for a while.

This is always a great tournament to watch and the difference between winning and losing is very slight. You could say it could come down to months.

Until next time stay safe, get vaccinated and wear a mask.

Follow on Twitter: @Betweentheears2

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