What to know about professional sports in Canada
By: Vincent Tran
Published on: February 9th, 2024
Sports are a big part of Canadian culture and society. Many Canadians participate in sports or actively watch them. There are many sports fans here in Canada and Canadians can get very passionate when supporting their favourite teams or athletes.
Around the world, sports can bring people together and also divide them, and that fact is no different in Canada. Many sports moments have united Canadians all across the country, such as the 2010 Olympic Gold medal game in men’s ice hockey, where Canada beat the United States 3-2 in overtime.
It’s useful to know a bit more about professional sports in Canada, so here’s a quick rundown of some of the big sports across the country.
Currently in Canada there is only one Major League Baseball (MLB) team: the Toronto Blue Jays. The Montréal Expos were Canada’s first MLB team, being founded in 1969, but they folded in 2004 and relocated to Washington, D.C., becoming the Washington Nationals.
The Blue Jays have a large following across the nation, but especially in Toronto. On days that the Blue Jays have a home game, you can see many people wearing the team’s apparel, such as jerseys and baseball hats. Meanwhile, the Rogers Centre, the stadium the team plays in during these home games, always has a swarm of people in and around the area.
The Blue Jays’ greatest accomplishment came when they won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993. Those two World Series wins are the Blue Jays only World Series Championships, however they possess a good core of players who may keep the team competitive for years to come. Current star players for the Blue Jays include Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Kevin Gausman.
Canadians have also starred throughout MLB history with players such as Larry Walker, Joey Votto, and Freddie Freeman to name a few. First baseman Freddie Freeman is currently one of the best players in Major League Baseball, playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the moment. Freeman won the 2021 World Series as one of the leading players for the Atlanta Braves, defeating the Houston Astros in six games.
Today, basketball has grown to be one of the most popular sports in all of Canada and it really shows throughout the country. In many cities and suburbs, you will likely see basketball nets, or people wearing basketball apparel or shooting hoops with friends.
In the professional scene, Canada has one franchise in the National Basketball Association (NBA): the Toronto Raptors. Canada used to have another NBA team, the Vancouver Grizzlies, but they relocated to Memphis in 2001.
The Toronto Raptors originally joined the NBA alongside the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1995. There have been many notable basketball players to have played for the Raptors over the years. Players such as Vince Carter, Kyle Lowry, and Kawhi Leonard are just a few of the legends to have donned the Raptors jersey in the past.
The Raptors’ biggest achievement came in the 2018-19 NBA season when they won their first ever NBA Championship, beating the Golden State Warriors in six games; with Kawhi Leonard being named NBA Finals MVP. Presently, the Raptors boast star players such as Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes.
Unfortunately, there are no Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) teams in Canada, but Canadian women still feature in the WNBA. Currently, there are four Canadian WNBA players: Kia Nurse, Bridget Carleton, Natalie Achonwa, and Laeticia Amihere.
American football, or just simply known as football in Canada, is a sport that has a large following in the country. Similar to the National Football League (NFL) in the United States, Canada has its own football league called the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Although the two leagues play a similar sport, there are slight differences between Canadian and American football. Each year the teams play an 18-game season, with the six best teams competing in the playoffs for the championship; called the Grey Cup.
Originally founded in 1958, the CFL has gone on for 65 years now and includes nine teams across the country. The nine teams in the CFL are separated by divisions; East and West.
The East division consists of four teams: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montréal Alouettes, Toronto Argonauts, and Ottawa Redblacks. The most recent winners of the Grey Cup are the Toronto Argonauts, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 in the 109th Grey Cup in 2022.
The West division includes five teams: the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Elks, Saskatchewan Roughriders, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Currently there are also some Canadians in the NFL such as Chase Claypool, Chuba Hubbard, and Jevon Holland.
Hockey and Canada go hand-in-hand. Many Canadians all across the country support Canadian hockey players and many different teams from the National Hockey League (NHL).
There are seven Canadian NHL teams: the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montréal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets.
Canada is known around the world for hockey and for good reason. Many Canadians are big fans of the sport and many of the best hockey players in the NHL are Canadian.
On the international level, Canada is always competing for gold medals in tournaments for both the men and women and they usually come out as champions.
The most popular sport in many countries around the world is soccer, and although many Canadians are interested in other sports, soccer is slowly growing in popularity.
With close to one million registered participants, soccer has a large following in Canada
On the professional level, Canada has three teams in Major League Soccer (MLS): CF Montréal, Toronto FC, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Toronto FC are the only Canadian MLS team to appear in the MLS Cup Final, having won it once in 2017 defeating the Seattle Sounders 2-0.
In international soccer, the Canadian women have set the standard for soccer in Canada. They are the reigning Olympic gold medallists having defeated Sweden in a penalty shootout at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Canadian women’s team is among the best in the world, currently ranked seventh, and is usually very competitive in international tournaments.
The Canadian men’s team recently played at their first World Cup in 36 years, losing all three games and going out at the group stage. Despite the disappointing 2022 World Cup, Canada’s men’s team has many talented young players that will likely play for great clubs around the world when the time comes.
The 2026 FIFA men’s World Cup will be taking place in North America, with Vancouver and Toronto confirmed as host cities. This is a big opportunity to continue the growth of soccer in Canada. If you live in or near those cities, you won’t want to miss the possibility of seeing the Canadian men’s team play.
The more you watch and follow sports, the more you’ll realise that there are many professional Canadian athletes in all kinds of sports. Other sports with a large Canadian presence include lacrosse, tennis, swimming, and Winter Olympic sports.
Canadians are very prominent in the athletics scene and this is only a small glimpse of professional sports in Canada. There is much more that Canada has to offer when it comes to sports, so stay tuned!