Sports in Canada were first organized in the 1770s. Ice hockey, football, baseball, basketball, Curling, and Lacrosse are the top sports in Canada. However, what is Canada’s national sport?
Canada’s national sports are Ice hockey (During Winter) and Lacrosse (During Summer). Canadian government enacted the National Sports of Canada Act in 1994 to declare the official sport in Canada.
However, Canadian youths also enjoy other sports like Hockey, Golf, Tennis, Badminton, Cricket, Squash, Table Tennis, Rugby, etc. Canada organizes several national and international competition leagues, especially with the USA.
National sports give an identity to a nation. It is a kind of measurement of its popularity in that country. In the same way, Ice Hockey and Lacrosse games are played very enthusiastically.
Let us dive into the history and nature of these two sports.
1. Historical Context
Before 1840, games were regarded as recreational activities for the rich only. Sports bodies organized these from 1840 to 1880.
National organizations were set up, and several professional sports emerged during 1880-1960. Many professional leagues were conducted in the last half of the 20th Century.
There are four sports in Canada which are very popular. Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Ringette and Curling. Canada is known for these sports in the world.
1.1. Debate Over National Sports
During the 1960s, a debate was going on about Canada’s national sport. There was misinformation that the Lacrosse game was a national sport.
On the other hand, parliamentarian Jack Roxburgh wanted to declare hockey a national sport.
The debate got intense, Canadian Association tried to suppress this demand for hockey as a national sport.
The then Prime Miniter announced about two national sports during winter and summer. But a consensus was not reached.
In 1994, an attempt to declare Ice Hockey as a national sport was objected to. It was finally decided to make Ice Hockey, a National winter sport and Lacrosse game, a National Summer sport in Canada.
National Sports of Canada Act of 1994 got confirmation from the Parliament of Canada.
1.2. National Sports of Canada Act, 1994
At first, the bill proposed to declare hockey as a single national sport. But the Canadian Lacrosse Association protested this bill.
The House of Commons modified it for the inclusion of Ice Hockey and Lacrosse as National winter and summer sports, respectively.
Canadian Parliament enacted and enforced the Act in 1994. The Act does not mention any specific timings for these sports to play.
Although, due to feasibility, ice hockey can be played during winter only. During summer, it needs artificial ice.
2. National Sports
Let us discuss the two sports discussed above.
2.1. Ice Hockey: National Winter Sport
Ice hockey became the national winter sport in 1994, officially. 19th Century is a possible origin date. The form of the game was borrowed from various countries. Ice hockey is influenced by Britain’s stick and ball games and several other games.
This is a popular sport in Canada. Every educational institution in Canada has an ice hockey rink. Canada’s winter sport originated in Montreal.
2.1.1. Competitions: National and International
There are several competitions held every year in Canada. A Memorial Cup is for the junior-age Men groups, while Allan Cup is conducted for senior men groups.
The Stanley cup is one of the premier national championships, originated in 1893. After this, people recognize hockey as a national game of Canada.
Hockey Canada recognizes hockey as a competitive sport as an official governing body. This body is part of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
The national team of Canada participates in the World championships conducted by IIHF occasionally. This sport is also included in the Winter Olympic Games.
The national winter sport is played by children and youth mostly. However, women also participate in this national game.
In a 2010 survey, it was found that 22% of Children play hockey as their prime sport. This sport faces fierce competition from Basketball, Canadian football and field hockey.
2.2.2. Women’s Participation
This national game of Canada is increasingly popular among women. Several national championships have been held.
The Women’s Hockey League was conducted between 2007 and 2019. It had 12 sessions. The Clarkson Cup is another major league for Canada’s national winter sport.
Additionally, women’s hockey is present at the school and college levels. National registration for women’s ice hockey teams has increased manifold during the last few years.
2.2.3. National Hockey League
It is a professional league which includes both the Canadian team and the USA team.
From Canada’s side, seven teams participate in this league. This league originated in Canada. Therefore, the Canadian players are the majority in numbers.
This league is broadcasted on national television on Saturday nights. Canada’s national sport is a popular event for Canadians.
Ice Hockey, a national game, faces many challenges today.
- Other popular sports: Canadians are interested in many other popular sports. Football, Curling, Ringette, Olympic games, and commonwealth games are the major rivals of Ice Hockey.
- Ice Availability: Due to climate change, ice has become limited to winters only. In summer, artificial ice is required to conduct sporting events of Ice Hockey.
- Governing body: Hockey Canada is facing challenges with funding requirements. Organizing sporting events with professional teams became cumbersome, especially after the pandemic.
- Not a Universal sport: It needs ice to conduct sporting events like this. Countries which do not have ice availability are not able to organize popular games like this.
3. Lacrosse: Canada’s National Summer Sport
Lacrosse is also a popular game preferred by Canadians, alongside Ice Hockey. This has become a national game after the enactment of the 1994 act.
The first written document related to Lacrosse in Canada is from 1637. This game was first played even before European colonists.
Canada’s summer sport was formally started in the 1800s. Modern lacrosse, along with box lacrosse began only after the 1930s.
The first game was played between Europeans and First Nations in 1843. The Montreal Lacrosse Club was officially announced in 1856 to formalize the sport.
A Lacrosse association was the next step towards this in 1875. By 1880, the association became National Amateur Lacrosse Association.
However, due to violence, the game became very infamous. Some clubs were promoting it as a “muscular Christianity”. The professional league associated with the sport was suspended.
It became limited to a few provinces before the Lacrosse Association was set up in 1925.
3.2. Canadian Lacrosse Association
It acts like a management body for Lacrosse. It was established to formalize the game. By the 1910s, lacrosse was the most popular among other sports in Canada. Along with it, violence started.
This body was established to tackle violence and popularize the sport worldwide. It organizes national games for junior and senior teams.
These teams are trained for the World Lacrosse Championships, conducted every four years.
3.3. Box Lacrosse and Field Lacrosse
Box lacrosse was introduced in 1931 to make it a year-round event. Winters used to limit the sport to summer only. Therefore, to tackle the problem of ice, this form was introduced.
It is an indoor version of lacrosse. It has become more popular than field lacrosse due to its feasibility in winter.
Field lacrosse is played outside as compared to box lacrosse. This version has different rules than box lacrosse because of more space and players.
3.4. Developments in the 21st Century
For many years, Canadian teams participated in the World Championships. Canadian players are encouraged to participate in these competitions to improve sports relations with other countries.
Many regional associations have also been established. Ontario Lacrosse Association is one such association. Most of the lacrosse-related activities in Ontario are handled by this association.
National Lacrosse League is one of the major leagues in Canada. It is a box lacrosse championship held from time to time. In the 2022 league, Colorado Mammoth won the title, beating the Buffalo Bandits.
The league has 13 franchises currently, out of which five are located in Canada.
Lacrosse is facing many challenges today. Some of them are listed below
- Training: Training is difficult nowadays. Coaches are not available, and the demand for training is high. Therefore, quality is compromised in terms of training.
- Field Lacrosse: This version of the game is less attractive than the indoor version. It has limited the options to those more interested in the field version.
- Limited to Certain areas: Although Lacrosse is a popular sport, it is not widespread in Canada. It is played in a few provinces.
- Limited Reach: It is limited to North America. World has not accepted it as a mainstream sport. Lacrosse is not a part of the Olympic games also.
- Competition from Other Games: Canadian football, Cricket, basketball, baseball, etcetera. These are famous sports, challenging lacrosse to survive as a native game.
3. Other Sports: Potential for National Sports of Canada
There are other games which have the potential to become national sports. These are Curling and Ringette. These are as famous as Ice Hockey and Lacrosse.
This is a uniquely Canadian game played by players sliding stones on an ice floor to reach a target. Four concentric circles are created at the end of the ice floor.
Two teams compete with each other. Each has four players. Players have to slide the stone to the middle of the circles. This centre is called a house.
Points are given based on the distance of the stones from the house. The closest the stone, the more the score.
3.1.1. Potential to Become a National Sport
There are several reasons which advocate for curling to be a national sport.
- Historical Context: Curling has been developed in Canada for the last two centuries. It has evolved and represents Urban along with Rural areas.
- Widely famous: millions of people watch this sport every year and participate in this sport. Colleges and universities have the facilities for this sport. One important reason is its association with the winter season.
- Olympic Games Association: It was included in the Olympic games in 1924. It officially became an Olympic program in 1998. Canada has won several Olympic medals in this event.
- Key Events: Many tournaments at the world level are organized. Most famous being the Winter Olympic Games. World Curling Championship and Canada Cup (Curling) are very famous in Canada.
This game lacks inclusivity. It has been observed historically that curling is dominated by white people who are male athletes. People from other backgrounds are less represented in this game.
Another challenge is its limited outreach to other countries of the world. It is one of the most popular games in Canada, but at the world level, this has not reached acceptable levels.
Ringette is another form of Ice Hockey, developed in the 1960s. It was introduced to break the hegemony of male-dominated Ice Hockey.
Females usually felt left out in terms of Ice hockey. Due to that, this game was introduced by Sam Jacks in 1963.
This is similar to hockey. Players use a stick to strike a ring into the opposite team’s target. The team with more hits wins the game.
This game is safer than ice hockey. The rules were suitably designed for women as well as children.
3.2.1. Arguments In Favour
- The game is very famous among girls and children. According to an estimate, 50,000 Canadians play ringette each year.
- More than twelve countries have this sport. It has become an attraction for them also.
- It combines the elements of ice hockey, basketball and lacrosse. This makes it a unique sport.
- Unlike other games, it is inclusive. Women, children and people from different ethnicity find it an enjoyable game.
3.2.2. Arguments Against Ringette
- Although ringette is very popular in Canada, it still has limited exposure. Other nations do not follow this as a mainstream sport.
- Ringette lacks historical and cultural significance compared to hockey, curling or lacrosse. It is a new sport that needs to gain ground in Canadian culture before it can be termed a national game.
- Lack of exposure and cultural significance prevents this game from receiving significant funding.
- It is not a part of the Winter Olympic Games yet. Therefore, it is not regarded as a prime sport in Canada despite its popularity.
4. Canadian Performance in Olympic Games
Canada has a proud history of representation in the Olympic games. It started participating in 1900 with only two athletes.
Since then, Canadian players have been competing with world rivals such as France, the USA, China, Australia, the UK, etc.
The main sports that Canada takes part in are Ice Hockey, Swimming, Curling, Figure Skating, etc.
Canada hosted Winter Olympic Games in 2010 and won 14 Gold medals. Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey team won four Gold medals subsequently from 2002 to 2014.
4.1. Performance of Canada: 2022 Winter Olympic Games
Canada participated in all 24 sections of the games. Canadian team comprised 215 athletes and won 26 medals, of which 4 were Gold Medals, the lowest since 1994.
4.1.2. Ice Hockey
Canadian Women’s National Ice Hockey Team won the Gold medal. But the men’s team could not make it to the medal tally.
It was not a performance at par because hockey is a national winter sport in Canada. This needs to be addressed by both the management and the federal government.
Performance in curling was even more degraded. Canada had only one Bronze medal in Men’s Tournament.
Being a popular sport in Canada, the problems that players are facing should be addressed. Proper funding and facilities need to be assured for better performance.
4.2. Performance of Canada: Summer Olympics of 2022
Canada participated in Tokyo 2020 Summer games. A total of 370 athletes competed in 30 sports. Canadian players won 24 medals, the highest tally since the 1984 games. Seven were Gold medals.
In swimming, Canada won 6 medals, of which 1 Gold, 3 Silver and 2 Bronze medals.
The performance in swimming was as expected by the coaches. Being a popular sport in Canada, swimming attracts many athletes.
4.2.2. Field Hockey
Unfortunately, Canada did not win a single medal in this edition. Sixteen players participated in the Canadian team. Although no women contingent participated.
Compared to Ice Hockey, field hockey lacks enthusiasm among the youth. Canadian climate could be a reason for it.
Canadian winters are long, so they prefer the ice version over the field version.
5. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why a national sport is important for a nation?
Having a national sport can be significant socially and economically. It reflects the culture, heritage and historical values of a nation. At a diplomatic level, this enhances the credibility of a nation.
It also boosts the tourism industry, contributing to economic development. It encourages youths to participate in sporting activities, helping their overall development.
What are the other popular sports in Canada?
Other than national sports, Canadian youths are engaged in many other games. Basketball is a well-accepted sport played in Canada. The recent success of the Toronto Raptors in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is evidence of its popularity.
Golf, Baseball, Football, Skiing and snowboarding are some other sports Canadians are interested in. These became famous due to the influence of international sporting events like the Olympic games and Commonwealth games,
What is a hockey rink?
A hockey rink is specially designed for Ice Hockey. It is made of ice and a skating surface over a layer of heated concrete. It is made for a smooth slide over the surface.
Apart from ice hockey, it can be used to play broomball, ringette, rink ball, etc. It has three divisions: Defensive, Neutral and Offensive Zones.
Is the Stanley cup still organized?
The Stanley cup is a very old tournament for hockey in the American sub-continent. It was first presented in 1893. It is named after a Governor General, Lord Stanley of Preston.
It is still organized and the champion of the National Hockey League is presented with this cup annually. Sixteen teams participate in the national league for this prestigious cup every year.
What are the challenges the Canadian Sports Industry is facing?
There are many issues in Canadian Sports. The sports facilities such as stadiums are aging and require an overall degradation.
Lack of inclusivity from other communities has become a big problem for sports authorities. It is damaging the image of Canada at the international level.
Lack of funding is affecting the training of players and their other needs. Additionally, climate change affects sports that can only be played in winter.
What can be done to solve these issues?
No single solution can be devised. Sporting events need to be efficiently funded. A physical education instructor at every school and University level should be appointed.
The sports arenas and stadiums need an overhaul. New sports facilities are required for the incoming youth generation. An investment from the government and private sector is required.
To solve the inclusivity problem, the Canadian press needs to raise this issue with the Canadian Parliament to include stricter provisions in the laws.
Do commonwealth games include Ice Hockey and Lacrosse?
Both games are part of the Commonwealth games. However, they are not regularly included. Ice hockey was included only once in the 1930 Commonwealth games, held in Canada.
Lacrosse, on the other hand, has been included in several games. But, it was excluded since 1966. It is due to the less outreach of lacrosse games to other countries.
Possible reasons for this can be the domination of other popular sports like swimming and athletics and the difficulty of organizing these games with less participation from countries.
This article has answered the question: what is Canada’s national sport? Having diverse culture and historical significance, Canada resorted to having two national sports, Ice Hockey and Lacrosse.
After a long debate in Parliament, these two national sports were selected. However, many other sports require national recognition. Curling and Ringette are strong candidates in the national sports contest.
A country having a national game provides benefits of social and economic prosperity. They also propagate the cultural heritage of the country to the world.
Ice Hockey and Lacrosse represent the historical values of Canada. However, they are facing various challenges which need to be tackled. A bright future is awaiting these games and the Canadian sports industry.