Why Sports are Essential for Canadians

Sports play an important role in Canadian society. Learn about how different factors have shaped team sports over time.

Why Sports are Essential for Canadians

Sports have a significant role in the Canadian educational system, mainly due to the country's well-structured network of governmental and non-governmental organizations devoted to physical education. Many of the sports played in Canada have their roots in the practices of indigenous people or the first settlers. Canada is a leading sports nation, and the way sports are played today is affected by a variety of factors, including our four seasons and our social and geographical diversity. For instance, lacrosse, our national summer sport, has been practiced by indigenous people for almost a thousand years. Hockey, our national winter sport, was invented in Canada in the 19th century, and basketball was invented by Canadian James Naismith in 1891 to condition young athletes during the winter.

Nowadays, soccer is the most popular sport among Canadian children. The sport with the highest participation rate among young people in this country is soccer, and it has been so for decades. As a result, spectator interest in the global game has seen a clear increase among Canadian millennials. Although lacrosse has a rich history, it has long struggled to achieve the same level of fame and fortune as other professional sports in Canada. This is not surprising since sport is an activity where people can compete fiercely and still feel satisfied at the end, regardless of whether they win or lose. The enthusiasm of this identification, combined with fans' financial support, helped fuel the growth of professional sports.

For most of the 20th century, the fan code that governed most international sports organizations kept Canada's best professional hockey players out of international competition. The more obese the population becomes, the less likely they are to play sports due to physical restrictions and the more likely they are to gain weight. The third factor is commercialization - the process of transforming what was originally an informal and voluntary set of sports and leisure activities into a completely commercialized cultural market. The history of sports and leisure since the mid-19th century has been determined by many factors, but three historical processes stand out in particular. Established in 1881, a federation of non-professional sports organizations, including cycling, lacrosse and ice hockey clubs, it advocated a gentlemanly vision of athletics that would build character and community; it opposed the professionalization of sports and games. The culture of sportsmanship tends to give participants a positive feeling about themselves and a general sense of satisfaction. Organized sport was also designed in the 19th century as something that men did, and was defined as a training ground for proper virility.

The second process is fan identification and representation - the process by which a sport goes from being a random set of localized experiences to becoming a phenomenon that nourishes powerful alliances with cities, regions and nations. For most Canadians, sports participation is a path to good health and longevity, although they believe that nutrition and moderation in personal habits such as alcohol consumption are also important. The powerful forces that shaped team sports - such as their representative value, civic momentum from the 19th century and overwhelming need to win - led to hiring the best players. One of the first examples of commercializing team sports was the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), a professional hockey operation founded by Frank and Lester Patrick in southwestern British Columbia in 1911. In comparison to other countries, it is at best the fourth most popular team sport in America; other professional sports such as golf and NASCAR have higher attendance rates and ratings.