Guest Blog: Comparing Soccer and Hockey, by Liviu BirdShareThis
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 (www.thefalcononline.com) 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 (www.twitter.com/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.
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.
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.
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!
Watch Liviu play goal below: