“Two sports, both alike in dignity” or whatever Shakespeare said

The difference between playing soccer and watching hockey

Hockey and soccer aren’t that different, unless you consider that they’re completely different sports, then they’re quite different. File Photo Caroline Marsh/Graphic Brie Shimansky

A little something about myself, not that anyone asked, is that I’m a soccer player—I’m actually captain of my team. Shocking, huh? You really thought I didn’t know anything about sports, and you’re only partially right. 

A lot of the girls on my team are incredibly talented athletes. They’re the kind of people whose skill set seamlessly translates between a variety of sports. Not me though, I’m only good at the one, and even that might be a stretch. I believe that truly, win or lose, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re having fun. 

Still, I will say, securing that win makes it a whole lot more fun. I think the same is true for watching sports too. For that to happen though, we need to win. A few nights ago, when the Montreal Canadiens played the Calgary Flames, we ended up losing 2-1. It seems like the Habs’ loss had to do with the fact that they were exhausted, and rightfully so—the night before they played a late game in Vancouver, then traveled across provinces and time zones, just to play another one in the span of a day. But, since they’re our guys, we give them the benefit of the doubt—it’s what you do for the ones you love. 

Unfortunately, they lost their next game as well—also against the Flames, this time with a final score of 3-1. At that point, you can’t really chalk it up to fatigue anymore. It’s unfortunate when your team doesn’t win, whether it’s one you play for, or one you simply watch play—it doesn’t matter because it still feels like it’s your team. 

That’s why I keep saying “we,” as if I were a part of the team too. I mean, I could be if Marc Bergevin asked—I’m still waiting on his call. Although there are talks he’s going to be replaced soon anyway, so yes, I preemptively accept the position of general manager. Surprisingly enough, I managed my soccer team last season so I’d be rather qualified for it. If you’re thinking, manager? Didn’t you just say captain? Yes, manager, captain, and sometimes mascot—I wear many hats. I got us to the semi-finals, so honestly, hiring me wouldn’t be the worst idea—it might not be the best, but certainly it wouldn’t be the worst.

Even if I don’t get the job, the Montreal Canadiens will still be ‘my’ team. That’s what being a fan comes down to: celebrating their victories, and grieving their losses as if they were our own. It’s truer now than ever before because so many of us are unable to play the sports we love, so instead, we rely on the sports we love to watch. 

It can be a bit unsatisfying though, because despite wearing your lucky jersey—the one you swear will help them score—your actions don’t impact the team in the same way they would if you were out there playing alongside them. In that case, hiring me really wouldn’t be the worst idea—the worst idea being if they asked me to shoot my shot on the ice, then the Habs definitely wouldn’t have a shot. 

It’s not even that I would miss the net, it’s more so that I’d kick it in instead. Last game, I learned you’re not allowed to do that in hockey—it’s only okay in soccer. In all my quarter-of-a-year of watching the sport, I’d never seen that before. Then, suddenly, twice in one night! 

It all started when Johnny Gaudreau kicked the puck into the Habs’ net, and then the officials made it very clear it didn't count. It was a very ‘I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them’ moment—a moment that taught us, mostly me, the rules.

As a sports journalist who’s still learning about sports, I decided that I should judge the players’ actions based on the metric that if I wouldn't do it, then they absolutely shouldn’t do it. That’s important here because at this point in the game, I knew pucks shouldn’t be kicked into nets, while Josh Anderson was still figuring it out. There’s a time and place for scoring goals by ways of kicks—it’s just not while playing hockey. Segue, Josh, you wanna come play striker for my soccer team? You got it in the net after all. 

The way things are going, it might be awhile before I get back on the field—probably even longer before Anderson embraces his soccer star potential and joins me—so it’s been really comforting to cheer on the Habs in the meantime. 

Anyone who plays a sport of their own—whether it be hockey, soccer, or another—recognizes it’s been tough to take a step back. It’s like we’ve been benched, but the bench is purgatory, and we don’t know when we’ll make our comeback—it’s what I imagine Victor Mete feels every day of his life. Nonetheless, he’s played the past couple of games, and soon enough, we’ll have our chance to play too. Until then, he, you, and I have a team to root for as we keep the Drive for 25 alive. 

Hockey and soccer are more alike than you’d expect—they each have an offside rule nobody understands, and a place in my heart. Otherwise, the difference between the two is just that you can’t kick the puck into the net, but how often does that happen anyway?