Soccer and Hockey: Similar or Different?

While watching a game earlier in the World Cup (possibly the USA/Australia friendly), I realized that soccer and hockey really are not that different. The technical aspects are obviously different, but when one stops and thinks about it, the two games are quite similar. Both consist of putting something in a net and running/skating around a surface. Unlike basketball, however, both games require immense skill and physical stamina. In fact, about the only thing soccer and basketball have in common is that the refs are usually suspect at best (notable exceptions exist in soccer, such as Howard Webb, who is quite good), while the other major American sports contain few to zero similarities with soccer. Over the course of this post, I will try to explain exactly how they are similar and different.

When beginning to understand this similarity, it is important to think of each surface as the same, just in different sizes. Both include players chasing an object around a surface and trying to put it in the goal, as I have already stated. However, now imagine soccer players in ice skates, or hockey players playing in cleats. Sure, the size of the pitch and the rink are nowhere near similar, but anyone who has watched enough of either sport knows that soccer requires a massive playing surface to be truly effective, whereas hockey does not. This explains the difference in the number of players on the surface at one time. Net size is also different, but when one considers a) the size of the rink, and b) the size of the object heading for the net, this is easily explainable.

The way both sports are played often illustrates grace in running/skating styles with some of the elite players. Watching Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona (see Goal of the Century) run around defenders is just as graceful as watching Wayne Gretzky or Pavel Datsyuk skate circles around their opponents. While the equipment is vastly different (anyone trying to play hockey without pads would just be stupid), the concept is still the same. Different defensive schemes (both games have their version of the "Trap;" the 1995 New Jersey Devils and any Jose Mourinho coached team played/plays this style) and different formations (the left wing lock employed by the Detroit Red Wings for a period of time vs. the 4-4-2 formation used by the current Bayern Munich squad) are employed throughout the sports. This is not unlike American football, but football has different objectives than these sports, so this can be discarded.

Both sports also contain fouls of various kinds. A well placed free kick in soccer can practically equal a power play in hockey if done correctly. Yellow/Red cards equal majors and game misconducts/match penalties in hockey as well. The red card/game misconduct/match penalty comparison is the most obvious, as one is often suspended for an offense along these lines in hockey (minus fighting instigators before the last 5 minutes), while red cards automatically carry at least a one game suspension, and that can be lengthened. The one notable exception to this is that hockey does not contain a lot of diving, while soccer contains a lot.

What might be the most important comparison is the flow of the game. Anyone who has watched an entire soccer match knows that there are absolutely no commercial breaks whatsoever, unless it is during pregame, halftime, or post-game. This makes the game smooth and continuous no matter the circumstances (unless weather disrupts your feed like the Germany/Turkey game in Euro 2008 (see the semi-finals section for this event)). NHL style hockey employs a somewhat similar system, but does allow for a few commercial breaks during the course of a period. Olympic style hockey does not stop for any commercial breaks, even though networks will often cut out the feed of the game for a few seconds. Both of these games continue for long periods of time with constant, and often hard fought, play that makes it vital for these players to stay in top condition, which is not found in most other sports. As for the other major sports, basketball is often disrupted by timeouts, American football is in no way continuous via the stops and starts from each down, and baseball is almost as bad as football, if not worse for various reasons that are quite apparent (pitching changes, pitchers/catchers taking forever on the mound, etc.).

Of course, if you want to pull a tl;dr, just read what Seth had to say in Cbox, "Comparing hockey to soccer: Hockey is similar to soccer, but more exciting and not prissy...unless your name is David Setoguchi." CMR also chimed in, saying, "Soccer: hockey for the less economically privileged."

1 Response to "Soccer and Hockey: Similar or Different?"

  1. chiken

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