Friday, July 23, 2004

Hockey, Soccer Compatible

2004-07-23 JIM KERNAGHAN, London Free Press

Ever since soccer passed hockey in terms of registered players in Canada six years ago, there has been an uneasy relationship between the two sports.
Hockey is Canada's national sport. The emergence of soccer as the most widely played game did not sit well with some people.
It shouldn't be that way. There are no two sports that complement each other so well. Some of the best athletes play both sports.
It could be easily argued they are some of the best because they play both sports.
The year-after-year growth of soccer has been stupendous. In 1995, registrations were 484,000, just behind hockey. Last year, registered soccer players in Canada hit 825,000.
There are plenty of reasons, the chief one being economics. A flat area, a bunch of kids, a ball and jackets as goals are all soccer requires.
The organized game has grown from that, but the basics remain. While the costs of hockey's ice time, equipment and travel demands have almost turned it into a sport of the elite, soccer remains cost-efficient. It's affordable and available for nearly everyone.
Moreover, it embraces a wider range of players than hockey. Any kid who can kick a can on the street can learn the basics, whereas learning to skate, let alone control a puck, takes some time.
At the upper levels, both sports require talent, skills and fitness. In soccer, though, a small player can compete with anyone while in hockey, a player seeking to advance to the upper levels of his game has a big edge if he has size going for him.
London City general manager Harry Gauss played junior B hockey as well as soccer and can attest to the carryover in both sports.
"Anyone who played soccer was way ahead of anyone who didn't at (hockey) training camp," Gauss said. "It worked this way; you were a month ahead (in fitness) going into hockey."
This is no secret to elite hockey players. Once the National Hockey League began regular competition with European teams 32 years ago, they found the European hockey players also played a lot of soccer in training and many pro teams incorporated it into their own training.
Interestingly, some of the best hockey players in the world also excelled at soccer and some of them, such as Sweden's Borje Salming and Russia's Alexander Maltsev, had to make a decision as to which national team they'd concentrate on.
Former Toronto Maple Leaf all-star Salming once said he had no doubt he would never have attained his remarkable balance without his soccer background. Interestingly, Philadelphia Flyers' Jeremy Roenick said the same thing more recently.
It's not exactly soccer but virtually every NHL team's pre-game rite is to keep a ball in the air in the corridor to loosen up before donning their equipment.
Being a good soccer player won't make you a good hockey player and vice versa, but the elements of both games are essentially alike. You attack a goal or defend one, there are offsides, you have to cover your man, there are penalty shots.
The physical demands are certainly different yet the fitness basics remain the same. Oh yes, there's one other thing.
In both sports, goaltenders are often a little off-the-wall.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Hemming ready to go

The talented Londoner hopes to have his college soccer career back on track after he was forced to sit out the final 10 games last season because he had played in the CPSL
RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

London soccer star Tyler Hemming isn't sure what kind of degree he'll end up with when he finishes his four years at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.
If his first NCAA season is any indication, he'll be well-versed to major in drama.
Last fall, the talented centre-back started his U.S. college career in fine fashion, helping lead the surprising Hawks to as high as a No. 9 ranking in an NCAA Division I national men's soccer poll.
But Hemming's season was quickly slide-tackled when he was forced to sit out while his school investigated his eligibility after learning he had previously played with London City of the Canadian Professional Soccer League.
Though Hemming never got paid in the CPSL and City remains an all-amateur team, he ended up missing the final 10 games of his freshman season and he's still not sure how far his suspension will carry in his sophomore year.
"In the best-case scenario, I go back next month and am allowed to play right away," the 19-year-old Saunders grad said. "There's still a chance I'll have to sit out another 10 games."
One source close to the situation said Hemming, at worst, will grab pine time for an additional six games and then be home-free the rest of the year and his NCAA career.
It wasn't the only thing on his mind this summer. Hemming still had to worry about what kind of soccer program Hartwick would support when he returned.
During the offseason, the college's men's soccer team and women's water polo squad were ticketed to drop to NCAA Division III status. But an alumni fundraising blitz saved the day in late May.
"It was unbelievable, the target was $3 million and they raised $2 million in under three months to keep us in Division I," Hemming said. "It'd be a great story, after all that's happened, if we could go on and win a national championship."
First, Hartwick has to qualify for the NCAA's 48-team national championship tournament. Incredibly, it didn't happen last year.
"We all felt pretty bad about that," Hemming said. "We finished 15-2-2 in our league, the school's best finish since 1994, we were ranked ninth for a while and still didn't get in.
"Our coach (Ian McIntyre) said it had nothing to do with me, that it was the quality of our schedule that hurt us. I don't know why -- I thought we played a lot of the good teams. But we're making sure this year that a lot of our non-conference games are against some of the best teams in the country."
Even with his feet finally planted in the college game, Hemming continues to keep an eye on pro opportunities here and abroad.
"I want to be at the point where I can play soccer to earn a living," he said. "I'd love to go to Europe, that's the dream, but at one point you have to decide whether it's better to try to go there or try for Major League Soccer and the A-League."
This summer, he's playing with London Hungarians of the Western Ontario Soccer League's premier division.
There's a chance Hartwick will come to London for an exhibition game against a local side, possibly Hemming's old London City mates.
That, of course, will have to be cleared with the NCAA. Tyler Hemming has had enough drama for one year.

Friday, July 09, 2004

London City might have what it takes

By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

It became a predictable mantra.
Every year before the start of the season, London City soccer club coach and GM Harry Gauss would talk about how good his club could be.
For whatever reason, his club would fail to fulfil his expectations during the regular season. Every once in a while there would be a big victory, such as last year's $10,000 win in the Canada Cup.
But as the host team, London City earned its way into the tournament thanks to a bye.
No doubt Gauss would love to make a lot of noise in the regular season and not have to get anywhere via a bye.
Once again, this year, Gauss thought he had a good team before the season began. And so far, his players have given him plenty of reason to believe they are the real deal.
Gauss's team has three wins in four games. They play tonight at Cove Road against Border Stars of Windsor.
City's early success has not gone unnoticed. They are drawing better crowds than last year.
"But we should," Gauss said. "For the quality that's out there. They're exciting and they are electric."
For years, City has always boasted a number of good players but often suffered from lack of depth. Before this season began, Gauss knew he had a solid starting 11.
"Our 11 could play with anybody in the league," he said "Could we pick up the others to get us through injuries? We lost our leading goal scorer this year, we lost our Canada Cup MVP with a broken collarbone. They've been replaced. Our young players have sucked it up and are looking so good."
There's a reason for this depth. For the first time, London City has a reserve team in the Premier Division of the Western Ontario Soccer League. The experience of playing in that league has allowed players to move onto the Canadian Professional Soccer League team.
Improved conditioning has also played a role in City's success. On any given night at practice you'll see soccer players tied to fence posts pulling giant elastic bands or pulling a couple of car tires to improve their strength and speed.
"We're the fittest team," Gauss said, praising Steve Bozso, the 52-year-old speed trainer out of Otterville.
"He does so many different things.
"The very first time my team saw him, I had him put his legs behind his head. My team said, 'Harry, there's no way we're doing that.' "
But fitness and depth mean little if a team can't score. And in the past City didn't do a lot of scoring. But this season things have been different.
"We don't have rose-coloured glasses here," Gauss said. "Paul Munster has been a godsend. He's the real deal. I can't see us having him the whole season. He's just too good. I can see him playing in Europe."
Munster, 22, is from Ireland. He missed the last two years because of a knee injury. Since his return, he's scored six goals in the CPSL and 12 in the Premier League.
"All you ever heard around here was, 'You guys played a great game, but you didn't bury your chances,' " Gauss said. "Now we bury our chances. We're very comfortable defending because we know Munster will score. It's a credo here, 'Munster will score,' and he does."
Which, no doubt, will go a long way in helping Gauss finally fulfil his preseason mantra.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Nottingham Forest Academy Director visits London!

Nottingham Forest Academy Director visits London!
The London FC held a coaching clinic with Nick Marshall and was attended by a majority of Greater London Coaches. Marno Olafson and Ian Knight helped Nick with running the 2 day clinic in June.