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Guest Blog: Comparing Soccer and Hockey, by Liviu Bird



Howdy folks – today’s column for Puck Daddy will be up at 1:30 EST, on “The Stamkos Spot.”  As in, it seems like a ton of players are drifting to that soft spot on the ice and bombing one-timers, teams might wanna start defending that better.

Today’s guest post is from Liviu Bird, a long-time friend of the blog.  Enjoy.


Liviu Bird is a journalism student and soccer player at Seattle Pacific University. He grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and has always supported Justin Bourne’s college’s nemesis, the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He currently writes for The Falcon ( and plans on giving the professional soccer scene a shot before settling into a full-time writing gig somewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @lbird90 (

Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, liking hockey really wasn’t a choice. If you don’t like the sport there, they practically kick you out of the state. The hockey culture permeates all of our sports, including soccer, which has always been my game of choice.

Your esteemed author.

Before anybody yells at me, if I had learned to skate early enough and my uncle didn’t used to be a professional soccer player, I would probably be another BizNasty — a small-town player who somehow made it and watches from the press box on most nights.

Anyways, hockey players back home sometimes played competitive soccer in the summer to stay in shape. In fact, as a result of summer soccer, I met one of my best friends, who is currently playing club hockey in college.

Those of us who were serious about soccer also got caught up in the hockey mentality, by way of osmosis. I remember visiting the athletic trainer at one tournament in Phoenix and overhearing, “You got hurt playing against the Alaskans too? You’re the third player today who’s told me that.”

We weren’t thugs. We didn’t kick people for fun (I’m looking at you, Mexican national team) but we played a physical brand of soccer. We weren’t afraid to put a shoulder into somebody — which is also legal in soccer, I might add — to get him off the ball.

It wasn’t until recently I realized just how much I’ve learned from hockey over the years of playing soccer. As homage to my second-favorite sport, I took some time to write down a few of these gems of information.

First, and this goes with what I wrote above, don’t be afraid to hit and be hit. This doesn’t mean be a headhunter (Matt Cooke, Zinedine Zidane), but be willing to put a body — yours or an opponent’s — on the line for the sake of the team.

In soccer, we say those who don’t shy away from a tackle are good at “getting stuck in.” One guy on my college team would rather dance his way out of any physical altercation than get stuck in, and I just want to put my studs in his ankle once to show him it’s not really that bad after the initial sting goes away.

El Divo (C'mon, that's funny)

Getting stuck in segues nicely into the next point: Only pussies dive. Both hockey and soccer players are guilty of it, but everybody can agree it’s more deeply rooted in soccer culture. Even world champions do it (I’m looking at you, Italian national team of 2006), but nobody likes to see it. It makes players look like prima donnas and referees look like morons, either when they call a penalty or foul on a dive or when they miss a legitimate one because they suspect a dive.

Another thing I learned from hockey is a congested schedule is no reason to whine. Hockey teams of all levels routinely play back-to-back games, but most soccer teams complain about playing more than one game a week. God forbid you actually have to earn that paycheck, overpaid English Premier League superstars.

Lastly, my soccer-playing brethren need to learn to lighten up and get over their own inflated egos. Look at Alex Ovechkin. He knows when to be serious, but he never lets himself get to the point where he forgets he plays a game for a living. Wayne Rooney, on the other hand, is too concerned about his pocketbook to realize this.

Ooo, he purty.

Even at the college level, my teammates love to freak out when shit hits the proverbial fan. Mistakes are going to happen. Shouting and freaking out only exacerbate the problem. Drink some purple Gatorade the trainer put too much powder and not enough water into. All is well.

Dealing with players of both sports away from the rink or field, it’s easily apparent which group is in love with themselves (just look at Cristiano Ronaldo) and which group is in love with the game and the joys of playing it — for instance, I still haven’t figured out what soccer players should call puck bunnies, but we have them too.

I’m not trying to say soccer is a bad sport, played by untalented people. However, some things in our game are lacking and could easily be fixed by looking at how hockey players handle similar situations. The sports are similar enough.


Liviu linked to this song in his post, but I decided to embed it because it needs to be heard so these kids can be shamed.  Haha.  Thanks Bird, hope everyone enjoyed his contribution!

Follow him on Twitter here.

Watch Liviu play goal below:


10 Responses to “Guest Blog: Comparing Soccer and Hockey, by Liviu Bird”
  1. Kennedy says:

    I’m disappointed that the words “cynical foul” were not used in this post. I don’t know what a cynical foul is but I like the idea that some fouls are more glass half empty than others.

    One area where I am in awe of soccer/football is the crowds. After watching a game at the ACC and then tuning in to an EPL game the crowds in soccer cannot be topped. Nothing in North America comes close.

  2. SDC says:

    A soccer player with the sense of a hockey player?? Look out, whatever team he’s playing against. Any soccer player that denounces diving and whining, while promoting body-checking and honest, gritty play is ok in my books. Nice write.

  3. liverning says:

    Diving is a curse in football/soccer. Its a culture, in England its basically embarrassing to be a diver (but there are always exceptions), while in other European areas you are considered clever to be able to draw a penalty. Diving is basically in its infant stage in the NHL(when compared to football), and I hope they come up with stricter legislation to do away with it (basically spend as much effort and time eliminating it as they do blindside hits/hits to the head). It definitely takes away from both sports, but to a much lesser extent with hockey… I love both sports and want it out of both sports!!!! Its basically dishonest and leaves a bad taste in the mouth…
    For shame!

  4. Cat says:

    I’m surprised there aren’t more soccer/hockey fans in the world. There is so much similarity to how the game moves. When I was a kid who had played soccer since toddlerhood, I got into watching hockey b/c it was a lot like soccer except a)faster, b)body-checking is awesome! I wish I could just line up the girl with the ball and pound her out of the way! and c)holy crap they’re on ice skates.
    I have a theory that hockey is going through a similar evolution to what soccer went through in the 70s-80s, when there was a series of rule changes to a)get the career-ending tackles out of the game and b)reward more open, attacking styles of play. Sound familiar?
    I think to some extent the macho, I-keep-playing-no-matter-how-many-teeth-just-got-knocked-out culture of hockey will help keep diving from becoming as epidemic as it is in soccer. But more importantly, if refs manage not to be suckered too often by dives, and the really obvious ones are punished, that would create the right incentives. The reason it keeps happening in soccer is it keeps being rewarded. I was thrilled last summer to see a couple of yellow cards in the World Cup for diving. FIFA should also be fining obvious dives that the refs don’t catch.

  5. Derek says:

    Great article here. I think the one thing I have seen having been around athletes of many sports is that hockey players love the game they play more than most athletes (I think only basketball players come close). I appreciate your sentiments on diving as well, which is one of the two things that put me off from watching any non-World Cup soccer (and the stupid vuvuzelas made it impossible for me to watch the latest World Cup). It’s just embarrassing to watch guys roll around like they broke their leg, only to get up and be perfectly fine once they get the call. In hockey playing with pain is a badge of honor and every player looks down on those few guys who fake injuries. This carries over to diving, and as long as the macho attitude of hockey players is present diving won’t be as rampant in that sport as others.

    Cat: I think the reason for the lack of crossover is the speed of the game. At least for someone who grew up with hockey first and soccer second (or more like fifth), watching soccer is painfully slow.

    JB: About your PD article, how much would you attribute the rise of the one piece stick for the increase of players shooting from the soft spot on the weak side? Hull was the only guy who was really adept at it before, which is why he was the only one who did it regularly. One piece’s give anyone with a good shot the kind of velocity only Hull used to be able to get. However goalies don’t move any faster laterally than they did when Hull played.

  6. Dino says:

    I think soccer players actually suffer legitimate injuries prior to rolling around on the ground. Their trainers just have water in their bottles similar to “Michael’s Special Stuff”. A little squirt on the effected area and – miracle of miracles! – their career-ending injury is healed and they return to the game. It’s quite a phenomenon.

  7. hockeyguy says:

    Great column

  8. Ben says:

    First things first, I’m English, live in London and have been to White Hart Lane to watch Tottenham countless times. I’m also a huge NHL fan and have been a Blackhawks fan for about 7 years. I chose the Hawks because of their similarity to Tottenham (up until this year at least). A team with a lot of history that had not had any success for years. Now the Hawks have won the SC, so Spurs are enjoying a resurgence.

    I have to say the two sports can complement each other perfectly. The elements which annoy the hell out of me with football draw me to hockey, but equally, when watching hockey there are elements that I miss.

    For a start, the play-acting, feigning injury and general gamesmanship in football has become an increasing problem, combined with astronomical wages which has taken the sport away from the regular man. It’s a working class sport here, you only need a ball and some ‘jumpers for goalposts’ and you have a game. No expensive equipment. Just a patch of ground, a ball and at least two of you. Game on. But with players in England earning anything up to 200k a week, when they act like petulant children, it’s been very easy to become disillusioned with the game at the top level.

    This is what drew me to hockey a few years ago. I love the fact these are proper men, playing hard and for the most part, fair. If someone takes a cheap shot, their uppance will likely come on the next shift. You don’t get away with that crap. I love how Duncan Keith can take a puck to the mouth, lose six teeth and be back on the ice in a matter of minutes. Compare that to a footballer rolling around after an ankle tap and, well, it doesn’t compare.

    I love the pace, grace, skill, brutality and sheer athletic ability of NHLers. It’s honest.

    However, I do miss the beauty that only football can provide. Sure, you get moments in hockey, but they are fleeting. For the most part, it is a 100mph scramble for the puck. Football is obviously slower, but no less compelling and at its best is breathtaking. Gareth Bale surging down the left wing, time and again tearing apart the supposed best full-back in the world last month, was just exhilerating. The crowds, as mentioned above, are also something else. I’ve been to 3 NHL games and loved the experience, but they were nothing on a north London derby.

    In summary, despite everything I’ve written, they should not be compared and put up against each other. Football and the NHL are perfect companions, especially for me, as they are never on at the same time.

    Oops, for ‘football’, read ‘soccer’. Sorry.

  9. Marc says:

    SDC – those soccer players that act like hockey players? I think that game is called Rugby.

  10. Alanna says:

    Teenage middle-class white junior hockey players. SO. GANGSTA. I wish I could find out who did that. Good gravy.
    Chris Chelios sighting at Notre Dame over the weekend. Apparently he’s still able to avoid his wife by following his boys’ team (kidding!). Apparently a very nice guy who was happy to stand around and oblige fans for as many photos and autographs as he was asked for

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