As a nation, Canadians are sport crazy. Like other countries around the globe, sport plays a huge part in the history, culture, and traditions of Canada – whilst also bringing communities and people together.
Hockey and Canada are synonymous with each other, and the sport remains integral to the country’s culture. Although it has gradually gained popularity around the world, the level of intensity and excitement seems to be strongest in North America, than anywhere else around the world. As a result, it’s not just considered the ‘national sport’, it’s also a way of life.
But what is it that makes it so special in the Great White North?
Nova Scotia, the birthplace of hockey
While the first form of hockey wasn’t known by that name, there’s evidence to believe that its predecessor was played in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Originating in the early 1800s, by students at Canada’s first college, King’s College, ‘Hurley’ was played on an ice-skating pond. The province also lays claim to the development of the first ‘hockey’ sticks, pucks, and skates – and consequently, the winter game gradually developed into the one we know and love today.
From here, the first indoor hockey game was played in March of 1875, at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal – and it wasn’t long before annual championships took place in the city, leading to the inauguration of the Stanley Cup.
The fans and the hockey community
While it’s clear from the above that Canadians love to play hockey, they also love to watch it – and are very passionate about their team. However, it’s not just about supporting them on match day, fans can also maximize their enjoyment through sports betting – and this has led to further interest in the sport, particularly from countries overseas. As we will come on to, hockey matches can be quite tenacious, both on and off the ice – and it’s this intensity that also provides entertainment for fans.
The fierce rivalries
As of the 2021-22 season, there are seven teams from Canada participating in the NHL. Ahead of the current campaign, they are the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks – with the Winnipeg Jets playing in the Central Division. Whilst in the Eastern Conference (Atlantic Division) are the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Maple Leaves.
Some of the biggest rivalries include:
- Battle of Ontario: Ottawa Senators vs Toronto Maple Leafs
- Battle of Alberta: Calgary Flames vs Edmonton Oilers
- Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs (the oldest rivalry in the NHL)
- Calgary Flames vs Vancouver Canucks
It’s not just about the rivalries between Canadian teams, but also the much bigger rivalry of Canada vs. the US.
We’ve touched upon a brief early history of the game, and another important milestone in the sport came in 1920. That is when hockey was introduced to the Olympic Games. The Winnipeg Falcons won the gold medal for Canada, and four years later, the Toronto Granites secured gold at the Chamonix winter games.
And that was just the men’s game… hockey was only introduced to the women’s team in 1998 – with Canada landing a silver medal in Nagano. They have since gone on to play in every finals match, winning five gold medals and two silver.
In the same way that fans are passionate about their franchise teams, they are equally as supportive of their nation. And that was evident at the 2010 Vancouver Games, with both the men’s and women’s hockey teams winning gold on home soil. Better still, both teams beat the USA, continuing that thrilling rivalry.
And, as the most successful nation in the history of the Games, you can see why the sport is so important to the Canadian public.
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images