May 15, 2014 3:05 pm
Updated: May 15, 2014 11:16 pm

At what age do NHLers peak? Canadian research says best year is 29


Sidney Crosby has three more years until he peaks. So does Jonathan Toews and John Tavares.

New Vancouver research suggests that an NHL player’s performance peaks at 29 years old. But what does that mean for superstars such as Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur and Teemu Selanne – all athletes in their 40s who played well past their so-called prime?

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University of British Columbia researchers say their latest study identifies when players hit their best performing years. In forwards, it’s typically at ages 27 or 28. Defencemen are best between 28 and 29 and goalies’ performances vary little by age.

But they’re extremely close to their optimal years along the way: forwards are in their prime between 24 to 32 and defence have an entire decade between 24 to 34 to make the most of their careers.

READ MORE: Is the NHL drafting the wrong players because of a hockey birthday bias?

“While confirming conventional wisdom that players peak in their late 20s, this study proves it is wishful thinking for managers to expect a player in his mid-20s to continue improving significantly,” James Brander said in a university statement.

Brander, the lead author, is an economist at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

“The vast majority of players are at 90 per cent their best by age 24, although there are a few late bloomers,” he said.

His study’s based on statistical models that look at a typical player’s career progression – the players’ stats were taken from the 1997-98 to 2011-12 seasons. More than 2,000 players and a total of 9,901 player years were taken into account.

Brander said that his research applies to real-life settings: just look at this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

READ MORE: Bodychecking rules don’t help limit concussions in the NHL, Canadian research suggests

Pivotal players such as Patrick Kane, Toews and P.K. Subban – all about 25 years old – are nearing their prime.

“If we just go by relative age of key players, a team like Chicago would appear to be in the best shape. But that’s far from the whole story in the playoffs. Other things have a big effect, such as injuries and luck,” Brander said.

Now, take a look at some groundbreaking NHLers who have dominated the game, even in the final years of their hockey careers.


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