Canada is a sports-mad country which has achieved some notable performances on the global stage. Like all nations across the globe, some sports hold a greater level of popularity than others and, in this article, we will establish the reasons for that.
In turn, we’ll assess each of the sports covered and ask whether the interest is increasing or starting to decline. What’s certainly true is that Canadians like to take in a diverse set of competitions but there is one particular sport that unites almost the entire population.
On the Ice
Many sports attract interest across Canada, but one discipline stands out above all the rest. Viewing figures showed that in 2018, some 68% of the entire population tuned in to the NHL playoffs and it’s therefore clear that ice hockey is some way ahead of the chasing pack.
Ice hockey has proved to be a big draw for the sports betting industry too, with millions of dollars staked on ice hockey each year, from Canada, USA and other countries around the world. But why is the game so far ahead of the rest? One of the reasons is an obvious one and it relates to the issue of success.
In terms of sheer numbers, franchises from the United States dominate the NHL but they have stiff competition north of the border. In fact, the league was actually formed in Montreal back in 1917 and the Montreal Canadiens are currently the most successful side in the competition’s history.
The last of the Canadiens’ 25 Stanley Cup victories came in 1993 but there has been plenty of interest for national teams since that date. Coming back to those 2018 NHL playoffs, both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets were involved with the Jets making it through to the Conference Finals.
On an international level, the success continues with Canada winning more men’s gold medals in Winter Olympic ice hockey than anyone else. Their haul of nine golds, up to and including Sochi in 2014, puts them two ahead of the former Soviet Union. Of the countries that are currently competing, the USA and Sweden are lagging behind with two gold medals each.
Sport for All
Gold Medals and Stanley Cups are among the reasons for high viewing figures in Canada but, as the saying goes, success breeds success. With Canadian NHL sides and the national team performing so well on the ice, their achievements lead to high participation levels among children and adults.
Hundreds of thousands of players take part in ice hockey and the sport has a great future to look forward to. The same philosophy can also be applied to Canada’s other favorite pastimes.
Sharing in the Success
The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball also welcome teams from Canada and the Maple Leaf flag has been hoisted high on more than one occasion. In 2019, the Toronto Raptors became the first Canadian franchise to win the NBA and they continue to compete at the highest level.
In baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series twice in the early 1990s. Both sports enjoy great support both from a playing and a viewing perspective. When the Raptors won the NBA pennant in 2019, 15.9 million Canadian viewers tuned in to watch.
Meanwhile, some 120,000 people play baseball at some level within the country. As well as competing with their US counterparts, Canadian sides also have their own professional leagues and divisions while other sports are played here on a more exclusive level.
No Grey Area
The Canadian Football League (CFL) was established in 1958 and it is the major competition for professional football franchises across the country. The current format of the division allows for nine teams to take part and, at the end of the season, those sides will play for right to lift the Grey Cup.
The trophy match is Canada’s equivalent of the Super Bowl and it’s stated that around a third of the entire population tunes in for the Grey Cup. While Canadian teams may not be competing on a bigger stage, the CFL is very much a national competition and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular.
Not so Obvious
The sport of lacrosse may be seen as a niche pastime in some parts of the world but that’s certainly not the case in Canada. Once again, part of the reason behind its popularity is the success earned and among the notable achievements is a world championship win for the Canadian national team in 2006.
The Canadian Lacrosse Association is the governing body within the sport, and they report that more than 100,000 players are registered with them. That’s almost as many lacrosse enthusiasts as baseball players and the figure underlines its importance within the country.
Completing the Scene
We’ve mentioned some of the most popular sports in the country, but many more pastimes are enjoyed by Canadians up and down the country. Soccer will always have its loyal followers and Toronto FC have secured some major silverware in North America’s MLS.
Elsewhere, cricket and rugby union are seen as growth sports where new players are helping to build popularity. Overall, it’s a very diverse landscape and, whether you’re a potential participant or simply an armchair viewer, Canada has a wide range of sports for everyone to enjoy.