Stacking, Performance Differentials, and Salary Discrimination in Professional Ice Hockey: A Survey of the Evidence

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Marc Lavoie University of Ottawa

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French Canadians in professional ice hockey perform generally better than English Canadian or American players. This is particularly clear at the position of defenseman. Stacking in the National Hockey League (NHL) is also observed, with very few French Canadians playing defense. Four theses are presented to explain these two phenomena. The first three theses—based on differences in the style of play, the cultural costs of moving to an NHL city, and the proficiency of the language of work (English)—all incorporate convincing arguments but fail to predict further established facts. Hiring discrimination best explains all of the facts that have been gathered by students of ice hockey. Except in the case of defensemen, little or no salary discrimination against Francophones could be identified, although their pay is determined differently. The collection of a wide variety of data suggests that favoritism by scouts substantially affects the outcome of hiring decisions, especially at the positions for which assessment is highly uncertain and subjective, that is, the position of defense.

Marc Lavoie is with the Department of Economics at the University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario KIN 6N5.

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