Has the NHL lock-out got you down? Are you going through hockey withdrawal? Just be thankful this didn’t happen last year in the Winnipeg Jets’ inaugural season back in Winnipeg after a fifteen year absence. At least the Jets played one year in Winnipeg and they’ll be back. In the meantime though what does a die hard hockey fan do in a winter without hockey?
If you really miss those prima-donna spoilt brat millionaires behaving badly every week then I have just the alternative for you.
Soccer, or more specifically English soccer. It’s the world’s most viewed spectator sport and the English Premier League comes up with staggering amounts of money to attract the world’s top players. In addition to the beauty of the game, a veritable ballet on grass, there’s the shenanigans of the players antics that add fuel to the fire. Yes, there’s spoilt brat millionaires over there too.
There’s currently issues of alleged racial abuse and players refusing to shake hands, not to mention a braying for blood as the British Prime Minister no less made an apology for police tactics at a game twenty three years ago which saw ninety six fans crushed to death. Then there’s the bookies annual offering of odds on who will be the first manager to be fired.
There are a lot of similarities between the two sports that a hockey fan could follow quite easily. Unlike American and Canadian football or baseball, the strategies of the games are free flowing play with the object being to get the ball, like the puck, into the back of the net. Or as one commentator so poetically put it, “to bulge the back of the ol’ onion bag”.
And when I say the game is free flowing that’s because the action is non stop for two halves of forty five minutes each. No time outs or commercial breaks where you’ll be subjected to mind numbing advertising for whiter toothpaste.
Then there is the way the English leagues and most other leagues for that matter are structured. The English Premier League has twenty teams, but these teams change each year as the bottom three teams at the end of the season have to drop out as they are relegated to a lower league, currently known as the Championship. And the top three teams from the Championship take their place as they are promoted and move up a division.
Conversely the bottom three teams in the Championship are also relegated and must drop down to a league that is lower still, And so on and so on right through a structure composed of many divisions of professional football.
So if you’re going to watch, you’ll need a team to which to pledge your undying allegiance. It’s easy for the English, you generally follow the team from your home town. So for example if you’re from Burnley in Lancashire, you’ll follow Burnley no matter how bad they are.
But for a frustrated Canadian hockey fan convulsing from pangs of withdrawal may I offer the following Soccer Guide to picking a team to follow. The Guide includes a brief description of each team, the team’s manager and top players, and some of their famous fans. It should help you find the soccer team that is right for you to follow:
A word of warning though, remember most games are played on Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm. That’s British time, which will be 9:00am Saturday morning in Winnipeg. So you may have to curtail that late night partying on Friday nights. It’s not easy being an armchair athlete!