Sports in Canada

By Delaney Rombough

Posted on January 24, 2022
track runner

Sports are a big part of Canadian culture. Canadians enjoy cheering for their favourite hometown teams, watching, and participating in many sports such as ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, curling, baseball, and more. Hockey and lacrosse are the official winter and summer sports, respectively. Professional sports in Canada includes teams in many major Canadian cities that are members of American or Canadian-based leagues.


Hockey is widely considered Canada’s national pastime. Men, women, and children play hockey at various levels of competition. Canada is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and the national team competes in the IIHF Men’s World Championship tournament and the Olympics. The Stanley Cup is considered the premiere trophy in professional hockey and is awarded to the top team in the National Hockey League (NHL).


The NHL includes teams from both Canada and the USA. Currently, the Canadian teams in the NHL are the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montréal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets. Hockey is also a popular spectator sport. Hockey Night in Canada is a longtime national Saturday night television broadcast that features Canadian NHL teams.


Lacrosse has been a popular sport since the mid-1800s. However, there is documentation that the First Nations peoples played lacrosse more than 500 years ago. The Canadian Lacrosse Association conducts junior and senior championship tournaments for both men and women in field and box lacrosse. Field lacrosse is played on a 100-metre outdoor field whereas box lacrosse is played indoors and is generally rougher and more contact-based than on a field.

Currently, the only active professional lacrosse league in Canada is the National Lacrosse League, based out of the United States. There are five Canadian teams in this league: The Vancouver Warriors, Calgary Roughnecks, Saskatchewan Rush, Toronto Rock, and Halifax Thunderbirds.

Canadian Football

In Canada, the term “football” is often used to refer to Canadian football, a game that is similar to American football. Canadian football has its origins in rugby but has changed and evolved over time. Football is played at the high school, junior, collegiate, and semi-professional, and professional levels.

The Canadian Football League (CFL) is the only professional football league in Canada. There are currently nine teams in the CFL: The BC Lions, the Calgary Stampeders, the Edmonton Elks, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Redblacks, and Montreal Alouettes.


Canadian James Naismith is credited with inventing the game of basketball. Basketball is most popular in Nova Scotia, southern Alberta, and southern Ontario and is mostly played at the high school and collegiate level. Saint Mary’s University, Acadia University, and St. Francis Xavier University, all in Nova Scotia, have particularly strong college basketball programs. The Toronto Raptors are the only professional team in Canada that plays in the National Basketball Association (NBA) league, which is based in the United States.


Although curling is of Scottish origins, it is one of the most popular sports in Canada and the most televised women’s sport. The first curling club opened in Montreal in 1807. The sport has gained popularity over the years. In curling, two teams of four send stones down the ice to try and hit the target circle. There are men’s, women’s, and mixed national tournaments every year. Canada has also traditionally done well in curling in the Olympics.

International and multi-sport competitions

Canada also competes in international competitions including the Commonwealth Games, Pan American Games, and the Summer and Winter Olympics. Canada has hosted the Olympics three times: The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Canada has also hosted the Commonwealth Games four times in Hamilton in 1930, Vancouver in 1954, Edmonton in 1978, and Victoria in 1994.

Traditionally, Canada does well in winter sports including hockey, speed skating, curling, and figure skating. At the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Canada won 14 gold medals, the most of any country at a Winter Olympics. At the summer games, Canada usually wins most of its medals in athletics, swimming, diving, rowing, and canoeing/kayaking.

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