Having played over 300 matches as a Canadian goalkeeper in the English Premiership, Craig Forrest happens to be the perfect person to discuss the transferable skills from soccer to hockey. Retired from the game, Forrest is now a Sportsnet soccer analyst, Canadian FIFA Ambassador, & leading the charge for the ProSmart Soccer initiative.
Ask any hockey player, pre-game two-touch or sewer ball has become a staple in almost every locker room. Rumours have it this game was introduced to the NHL by Finnish born player Jyrki Lumme, the rest is history. When you think about it, it’s not entirely surprising that soccer has ingrained itself so deeply into a game that is so drastically different.
Could it be the European influence? Or maybe it’s just the fact that the start and end dates of both sports match up perfectly. Let’s learn more about the transferable skills that soccer players can apply on the ice next fall.
1. Coordination & Ball Control
Real Madrid’s Christiano Ronaldo is in a class of his own when it comes to coordination and ball control. Let’s think for a minute, where do most young kids learn foot coordination? By playing soccer of course. Skate to stick or stick to skate; elite hockey players are able to use their feet to receive passes, make passes, and regain possession of the puck when it is fumbled. Watch Trevor Daley calmly receive a pass in his skates and go bunk with a backhand. That looks too easy.
2. Penetrating Passes
The penetrating pass is one of the most effective plays in soccer and nobody does it better than Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil. A striker will time their route, staying onside (ahead of the last defender before the ball is struck) while their teammate delivers the ball into an open area where the striker can run onto. Without a doubt the same Benn connection happened first on the soccer pitch.
I’m not talking about calculating the hypotenuse or differentiating between scalene and isosceles; effective soccer players must understand the concept of creating triangles all over the field. FC Barcelona’s star-studded lineup is known for their ability to dissect a team’s defense with short accurate triangular passes. At any given time, a soccer player should have at least two (if not more) passing options. There are double the players on the field in soccer but the concept of puck support still applies in hockey. It’s raining triangles in this North Dakota passing play!
4. Slide Tackling
Having a hard nose player like N’golo Kante is part of the reason why Leicester City is having so much success this season. Blue collar players aren’t afraid to hit the deck and make a slide tackle to regain possession. Although it can be fun when it’s raining, slide tackling comes at a price:
- Timing – timed perfectly so you don’t miss and wind up out of the play
- Precision – precise sliding to make contact with the ball first so a foul isn’t called
- Commitment – slide tackling on dry grass hurts; eat the pain to make the play
This is no different than sliding feet first to block a shot in hockey. The fearless Kris Russell sells out and wears one at 0:24.
5. Placement Over Power
There aren’t too many better feelings than blasting the ball as hard as you can past the keeper. Now think about this: how many times was that same shot missed high or wide due to lack of control from the unnecessary power? Soccer is a beautiful game because crafty finishers, like Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, do not need to use all their might to put the ball in the net. Placement over power is a real skill in soccer but it also carries over to hockey. Far fewer goals are scored off big slap shots than they are off quick, deceptive, and well-placed wristers & snappers. Even the big fellow, Marek Malik, displayed this skill at the most unlikely time.
6. Navigating Through Traffic
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the goalies. Widely recognized as one of the world’s top goalkeepers, Petr Cech gives Arsenal a secure last line of defense. As a premier league goalkeeper, he must be able to make saves in traffic with little to no visibility off free kicks and corners. The Washington Capitals backstop Braden Holtby faces a similar challenge on the penalty kill with a screen set up in front. Clearly, it doesn’t phase him!