It’s fair to say a large majority of Canadians are sports mad. In fact, the country boasts two different national sports depending on the time of year—hockey is without a doubt the jewel in the crown and encapsulates the nation during the winter whilst Lacrosse is the main sport of focus during the summer months. Research shows that, back in 2015, 7 out of the 10 most popular Canadian professional teams were ice hockey-related so visiting Canada and dropping in on a local game can give tourists a unique and unforgettable insight to that city and its people. Whilst hockey does indeed continue to dominate the sporting interests of the country, other sports are slowly but surely increasing in popularity and vying for a slice of the Canadian sporting industry pie.
Let’s take a look:
The NHL (National Hockey League) was founded in Montreal back in 1917 and continues to be regarded as the most prominent professional ice hockey league in the world. Canadian television broadcaster CBC sports continues to be the number one provider of live coverage of the league, which currently comprises 30 teams, of which only 7 are Canadian, with the remainder coming from the US. Canadian players do, however, usually make up over half of the teams in the league, although, this trend was bucked back in the 2015 season for the first time in the league’s 98-year history.
In order to realize just how seriously Canadians take their hockey, you simply need to direct your attention towards some of the more impressive hockey arenas that host some of the most prestigious NHL events, such as The Stanley Cup. With capacities of over 20,000, these impressive structures are custom built to allow spectators to get as close to the action as possible.
Despite the fact that the sport has been practised since before the 1867 Canadian Confederation, boxing was not allowed during the bare-knuckle era of fighting and the last fight of this nature took place somewhere around 1901 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fast forward over a hundred years and boxing is far more prevalent in the great white north, with media rights company MP&Silva recently striking TV deals in both Germany and Canada to broadcast the inaugural Muhammad Ali trophy.
Despite the fact that Tommy Burns of Ontario remains the only Canadian-born World Champion, Canadians can also lay claim to British-born former Heavyweight Champion of The World, Lennox Lewis, who holds dual British and Canadian citizenship. Lewis was a popular and charismatic champion, which culminated in him winning the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of The Year award in 1999. As a recent Betway article explains, British boxer Anthony Joshua is aiming to follow in Lewis’ footsteps and is a big favorite to take home the title in 2017 after he retired the great Wladimir Klitschko in a packed-out Wembley Stadium back in April.
As has been previously mentioned, the summer months see Canadians swap their hockey sticks for crosses and take to the lacrosse fields. Lacrosse is a sport that is engrained in Canadian culture and has a rich history dating back to around 1636. The story goes that a French Jesuit missionary witnessed a match in the St Lawrence Valley between Huron natives and went on to become the first European to make a record of the sport, calling it ‘Lacrosse’, which is the French word for a Bishop’s stick. Lacrosse went on to make its Olympic debut at St Louis in 1904, where teams from Great Britain, Canada, and the USA competed.
The basic object of the game is to use a Lacrosse stick to pass, carry, and shoot a rubber ball into the opponent’s goal, with the main rule being that players aren’t allowed to touch the ball with their hands. According to some recent studies, Lacrosse is the USA’s fastest growing sport due to its simplicity and inclusive nature. More importantly, the sport is flourishing in high schools, which could suggest that the game has a big future amongst the younger generation. The recent hype surrounding the 2017 Heritage Cup final between Canada and the USA certainly proves that the game is as popular as ever with both players and spectators.
More Than Just a Hockey Nation
Canada is often wrongly portrayed as a nation that only cares about hockey. Whilst the NHL does continue to be the biggest draw for Canadian spectators, the country has a rich and varied sporting history. With Canada’s national teams constantly improving in sports such as baseball and basketball, it’s only a matter of time before they become serious contenders when it comes to worldwide sporting competition. One thing’s for certain, the next few years will be interesting for any Canadian with a keen interest in sports.