Sports in Canada-What to expect
By Claire Badenhorst
If you’re worried that you’ll have to hang up your running shoes or pack your golf clubs away once you move to Canada, don’t fret. There is no shortage of fun things to do in the great north when it comes to sport. Whether it’s winter, summer, spring, or fall, there’s a sport for every person and every age.
Canadas Favorite Sports
Ice hockey- (or ‘hockey’ as it’s called up north) is to Canadians what rugby is to Saffas. It’s the nation’s number one winter sport and the National Hockey League (NHL) – which includes Canada and the United States – features seven Canadian teams: the Montreal Canadiens (the oldest team), Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, and Winnipeg Jets. If you’re planning to embrace Canadian culture fully, know that you’ll be attending at least a match or two of this much-loved game.
Canada’s second most popular sport is football. Like American football, this rugby-inspired game is fast-paced and extremely competitive. Other iconic Canadian sports are curling, baseball and lacrosse – a somewhat violent version of hockey played in summer where two teams of 10 players attempt to score by pitching a small rubber ball across a field using scoop-like netted sticks. Lacrosse is more popular at the university level and there’s even a friendlier option for kids that thankfully yields fewer broken bones.
If you’re heading to Ontario, you’ll no doubt hear about the Toronto Blue Jays – Canada’s only Major League Baseball team. Aside from its limited professional popularity, baseball is enjoyed in schools and amateur leagues across the nation.
Most sports are enjoyed in Canada to some degree. Soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, rugby, cricket, boxing, swimming, wrestling, track and field, rowing, and bowling are all considered mainstream sports in most parts of Canada.
Sports for Kids
There is a wide variety of extracurricular activities offered by schools in Canada because Canadians believe that it’s essential for children to learn about teamwork, sportsmanship, discipline, and respect. Taking part in sport is also a great way for your child to meet and make friends in their new home.
Another benefit is that universities and colleges around the country look for children who show that they have hobbies and interests outside of their academic lives when scouting for potential students.
Most schools offer these activities, but there are also community centers and private companies that specialize in certain sports or cultural after-school programs, so your child is bound to find something that appeals to them.
Sports/activities for kids in Canada:
- Dance (such as ballet)
- Judo/martial arts
Because many of these activities require equipment, it can become quite expensive, depending on how many sports your child participates in. However, allowing them to experiment early on will help them to figure out what they are passionate about.
Sports for Adults
There’s so much to do in Canada throughout the year. From running and cycling to mountain climbing, skiing, and hiking, there’s something for everyone, regardless of what the weather is up to.
- Running: Being one of the most beautiful places in the world, Canada is a great country to explore on foot. As such, there is a massive running culture with various races, tracks, trails, forests, and routes to discover in every province. Vancouver is seen as one of the world’s most beautiful cities and one of the best for running, while Ottawa boasts an extensive series of urban trails. Coastal Halifax is known for its hilly, yet serene waterfront running, and Toronto’s iconic Martin Goodman Trail is over 30 miles (48km) of pure running bliss.
- Golf: Did you know that Canada is the third-largest golfing nation in the world with over 2,300 golf facilities? Home to magnificent rolling fairways with postcard-perfect views – such as Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia – Canada has managed to break into the list of top golf courses in the world several times.
- Yoga: Fellow South African Andrea van Niekerk is a qualified 200hr Hatha Yoga Teacher living in Oakville, Toronto, with a passion for teaching the foundations of yoga and breathing to all levels of yogi, especially beginners. Not only is yoga a great way to work on your strength and flexibility during the colder months, but you are sure to meet other Saffas in Andrea’s live Zoom classes. These sessions happen four times a week, but you can also access the recordings on YouTube.
- Hiking: No doubt you’ve seen a photo or two before featuring crystal-clear, azure water with an exquisite snow-capped mountain backdrop. Well, this will soon be your playground. Canada is home to some of the most impressive national parks, with pristine lakes, towering trees, and abundant wildlife. From the 75km West Coast Trail in British Columbia to the 14.2km Grey Owl Trail through the forests of Riding Mountain National Park, there’s no end to the magnificent sights and trails.
- Portage: Another great way to experience Canada is through portage canoe camping, as you’ll see in this video shared by another fellow Saffa, Vincent. It’s a popular Canadian pastime that goes back to the early 19th century, defined as a “way by land around an interruption in water”. In other words, you travel via water and when you reach land again, you carry your cargo until your reach the next body of water. It’s a fun and cost-effective way to immerse yourself in nature – backcountry camping with a difference!
- Winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, etc.): The same places that make for excellent hiking spots in the warmer months convert into exquisite ski towns during winter. The Rocky Mountains are home to the top ski resorts on the planet, with picturesque resorts boasting shops, restaurants, hotels, and more. Some of the best ski spots include Whistler Blackcomb (a two-hour drive from Vancouver), Lake Louise (less than an hour from Banff, Alberta), Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort in Banff, Blue Mountain (a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Toronto), and Mont-Tremblant in Quebec. For the kids (or those who prefer not to ski), there’s also tubing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, and ice climbing offered at most resorts.
Regardless of the season, Canada offers a host of activities for every family. Finding something fun to do in your spare time will not only be a great way to embrace the Canadian culture but you’re also bound to meet new people and settle in quicker.