(This article originally appeared at Some Canadian Guys Writing About Soccer on November 20, 2009. Wondering what this is? Click here.)
In an effort to increase the sport’s visibility and popularity across the country, Canadian soccer officials have undertaken a bold venture to rename and rebrand the entire sport as “foot hockey”.
Officials with the Canadian Foot Hockey Association (formerly the Canadian Soccer Association) say that the move will help those in the Great White North form a deeper emotional bond with the beautiful game, conditioned as they are to equate anything hockey-related with their own fragile, conflicted idea of self- and national identity.
“We saw the way the country came together after the Canadian teams won gold medals in ice hockey at the 2002 Olympics,” said one CFHA official. “We want to create that same visceral excitement with soc… err, foot hockey.”
The name is derived from a popular Canadian schoolyard game in which two teams of players kick a ball (usually a tennis ball) in an attempt to score on the other team’s net. Despite bearing a striking resemblance to soccer, the game has traditionally been known as “foot hockey” because Canadians are only allowed to enjoy or be proud of anything athletically-related if it’s hockey.
While the rebranding will not change the way the game is played in Canada (that is to say, poorly), CFHA officials have already rolled out slogans they think will help people start seeing the game-formerly-known-as-soccer as just another variety of the only game Canadians are allowed to love.
“Ice is nice, but grass will kick your ass!”
“Who needs a puck when you’ve got balls?”
“Cleats: They’re like having 12 skates on each foot!”
“If you liked Bobby Orr dramatically sailing through the air after barely being touched, you’re going to love this!”
Some prominent media figures are already beginning to pick up on the change.
“Don’t count out this Canadian foot hockey team, Gord,” said commentator Pierre McGuire. “I really like this Gerba kid. He goes hard into the boards — or he would, if they were there — and then, whammo! He’s a MONSTER!”
“When you look at the foot hockey squad, right away, one thing comes to mind: heart,” said Bob McKenzie. “They don’t always have the skill or the speed or the finesse, but sometimes it’s just about those intangibles. Those are the things you can’t teach, and in this sport, sometimes that’s enough.”
“Dah, yeah, well them gotta foot hockey, yeah!” bellowed Don Cherry. “Good Canadian boys, foot hockey, no visors on any’a them! Bah dah rah! Givin’ it all, yeah, support the troops, Gump Worsley, bah!”
“Give them a foot and they’ll run all over you,” chirped Ron McLean, prompting a confused grin from Cherry.
Fan reaction thus far has been mixed; however, Field Hockey Canada has already filed a formal complaint.
“We have enough trouble generating excitement for our game as it is,” said one official. “We don’t need these soccer people dragging us all down into the muck with them!”