Measuring Employer-Based Discrimination versus Customer-Based Discrimination: The Case of French Canadians in the National Hockey League. (Discrimination and the NHL)

Article excerpt



RESEARCHERS STUDYING LABOR MARKET DISCRIMINATION have frequently focused on the professional sports industry to empirically test their theories. Relative to other industries, the professional sports industry offers a number of advantages to researchers: for example, the extent to which minorities are represented can be easily and accurately monitored; employee performance can be objectively measured, and data on such performance is widely available; information regarding employees' salaries are comprehensive and publicly available, and so forth.

This paper focuses on one particular sport--professional hockey. Unlike sports such as baseball, football, and basketball, for which racial discrimination has been the primary issue, discrimination based on ethnic origin has been the issue examined in hockey. Specifically, researchers have examined whether French Canadians--a group of players that have had a long history in the National Hockey League (NHL), but that have always been in a minority status--have suffered from discriminatory treatment. French Canadians possess a language and culture that is quite different from that of the Anglophone majority that has long dominated the NHL, and researchers have examined whether such differences have adversely affected French Canadians.

Much of the early literature in the area focused on salary discrimination and entry discrimination. (1) More recently, however, a different form of discrimination has been examined--the segregation of French Canadians to certain teams within the NHL. For example, Longley (2000) found, using a data set that spans the entire modern history of the NHL, that French Canadians have generally been underrepresented on teams based in English Canada, compared to teams based in the United States.

It is this underrepresentation that is the focus of this paper. While Longley's paper uncovered the existence and magnitude of this underrepresentation, it did not statistically test alternative hypotheses regarding the causes of this underrepresentation. The purpose of this paper is to conduct such statistical tests.

Using panel data, this paper analyzes whether such underrepresentation may be attributable to merely the idiosyncratic behavior of certain teams, rather than to any systematic discriminatory behavior by a broader, and identifiable, group of teams. It also examines the discrimination hypothesis and analyzes the extent to which the representation of French Canadians on individual teams may be related to the ethnic origin of that team's coach and/or general manager (GM), versus the extent to which this underrepresentation may be attributable to fan preferences. In effect, it attempts to identify the extent to which any possible discrimination is "customerbased" versus the extent to which it is "employer-based." Differentiating between the two sources is important, because the prospects and means by which this discrimination can be eliminated will vary depending on the underlying source of the discrimination.


French Canadians in the NHL

FRENCH CANADIAN PLAYERS have been prominent throughout the history of the NHL. Although always comprising a relatively small minority of the total players in the League at any given time, French Canadians have been some of the all-time great players in the history of the NHL-players, for example, such as Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Raymond Bourque, and Mario Lemieux.

Historically, a disproportionate number of French Canadians have played for one of the two Quebec-based teams in the NHL (the Montreal Canadiens and the former Quebec Nordiques). Prior to introduction of an amateur draft in 1969, the NHL used a "sponsorship" system to allocate all amateur players to NHL teams. NHL teams would scout players across the various amateur leagues in Canada and would attempt to sign these players to contracts before other NHL teams were able to do so. …


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