Gladwell's theory doesn't hold in 2010 

March, 10, 2010

In Malcolm Gladwell's most recent bestseller, Outliers, he spends some time discussing the unusual distribution of birthdates among the elite Canadian hockey players.

Gladwell explains it like this (via ESPN Page 2, Dec. 8, 2008):

"In Canada, the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey programs is Jan. 1. Canada also takes hockey really seriously, so coaches start streaming the best hockey players into elite programs, where they practice more and play more games and get better coaching, as early as 8 or 9. But who tends to be the 'best' player at age 8 or 9? The oldest, of course -- the kids born nearest the cut-off date, who can be as much as almost a year older than kids born at the other end of the cut-off date. When you are 8 years old, 10 or 11 extra months of maturity means a lot.

"So those kids get special attention. That's why there are more players in the NHL born in January and February and March than any other months."

People have tested this theory on several of sample groups, and it almost always holds true -- in junior leagues, the NHL and, of course, NHL draft classes.

But as we discovered when we tested, not the 2010 class. So we asked Gladwell and others about the outlier to the outlier.

The Outlier

We tested this class, fully expecting the usual results. But we found an anomaly. This draft class isn't dominated by North American skaters born between January and March. Instead, it's dominated by skaters born between April and June.