When people think of Canada, a few things immediately come to mind. Snow, bears, mountains and maple syrup are often among the most common symbols of the country. But its other most famous asset comes with much more adrenalin, cheering and friendly rivalry attached – its sports. From ice hockey to the skeleton bobsleigh, Canada’s dramatic climate and geography make it the home of some of the world’s most exciting sports.
If you are planning a Canada car rental holiday this year, you’ll be pleased to know that 2017 is set to see some of the country’s biggest sporting events. Perfect to visit along the way! No holiday to Canada is complete without immersing yourself in the nation’s sporting culture, so be sure to fit these top Canadian sports events in 2017 into your road trip.
If you’d like to try a sports city break, take a look at our sports holidays below:
Top sports competitions in Canada 2017
The Stanley Cup
Perhaps the most famous annual sporting event in Canada is the Stanley Cup. The ice hockey championship is run by the country’s National Hockey League and has been regarded as one the world’s biggest contests for the sport since it was founded in 1893. The Stanley Cup itself has been on various detours over the years, from being used as a cereal bowl to being tossed into a swimming pool and even lost on a flight from New Jersey to Vancouver. Whether you’re new to the sport or an avid fan, ice hockey is a rollercoaster ride, with moments of combat, wild cards and much more. Featuring the best teams in North America, this year’s tournament is currently in the playoff stages, so we don’t yet know where the finals will be hosted. However, NHL’s experts predict that the Montreal Canadiens could have a good chance in the runnings. So, if you are planning a Montreal holiday, be sure to check out the fixtures between now and late April.
NBA Playoffs and Finals
While you might associate basketball more readily with the United States than Canada, the U.S.A’s northerly neighbour often excels in this classic sport. The Toronto Raptors are Canada’s pride and joy in the NBA. Since the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001, the Raptors are the only team representing Canada, a fact they embrace in their motto, ‘We the North’. Recently, from the 17th to 19th of February, two members of the team featured in the NBA All Star games in New Orleans. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry helped to kick off the 2017 season, which all leads up to the finals in June. Agile, fast-paced and full of spontaneous dances and music, a Canadian basketball game is the perfect experience for sports fans in search of all-round celebratory entertainment. All being well for the Raptors, those lucky enough to visit Toronto during the spring and summer could even be in with a chance of seeing an NBA game in the city itself!
Curling – the Tim Hortons Brier
Curling is a true spectator sport, and an underrated one at that. This tactical sport is a little like boules on ice, and it is one that Canada excel at. The country won the highest accolade of a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, and have won the most titles in the World Curling Championships. This year, the Tim Hortons Brier will be occurring in St. John’s from the 4th of March. Al Cameron from Curling Canada explains:
“The Tim Hortons Brier, beginning March 4 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, is an iconic piece of Canadiana. It’s the world’s most famous curling event, drawing fans from across the country, to watch Canada’s best curling teams play for a national championship. But the Brier is more than a curling event — it’s a giant party, too! The Brier Patch, always located near the arena, is renowned for its live music and atmosphere. If you want to feel like a Canadian, put the Tim Hortons Brier on your bucket list! If you can’t make it to St. John’s, start planning ahead for the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier in Regina!”
Velirium – Mountain Bike World Cup
There are countless biking events occurring across Canada each year, in large part due to the brilliant variation of terrain available for cyclists across the country. Karine Bedard from Cycling Canada explains that there are many different cycling events occurring in 2017, with many, such as the Velirium and the GPCQM, at an international level. One of the first of these is the Velirium – Mountain Bike World Cup, which will be occurring at the Mont Sainte Anne in Quebec from August 4th to 6th this year. The adrenalin-filled series of races will include the Downhill World Cup, the Cross-Country World Cup and other events such as the Pumptrack Epic. Running since 1991, the World Cup has gained a global following for the athletes’ skilled negotiation of technical passages including tree roots, rocks, banks, jumps and various other obstacles.
Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et de Montréal (GPCQM)
The Grand Prix Cyclistes de Quebec et de Montreal, or the GPCQM for short, will be held from September 8th to 10th at the Grand Allée in Québec and the Avenue du Parc in Montréal. North America’s answer to the Tour de France, the GPCQM has been attracting athletes at the top of their game since 2010 to compete in these two challenging road races. This brilliant event makes the streets of Québec and Montréal buzz with excitement as the public view the events up close from viewing stands. There is also a Fans’ Village, featuring plenty of festivities to add to the proceedings.
Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cups
Earlier this year, Canada was host – as it is each year – to several bobsleigh and skeleton events on an international scale. After Whistler held the BMW IBSF World Cups for bobsleigh in December, Calgary was home to the Intercontinental Cup for skeleton in January. Whistler Sport Legacies explains:
“We will have World Cups every winter leading up to the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships which we will host in 2019. Those dates are not confirmed yet, however, as the race calendars for next season will be made in spring.”
Canada is a consistent star player on the international bobsleigh and skeleton scene, having won four gold medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics for bobsleigh and being third in the Olympic medal tables for skeleton. In anticipation of the 2019 World Championships in Whistler, you can expect to see various regional competitions across the country and particularly in British Columbia over the next two years.
Ski Jumping Nordic Combined National Championships
Skiing is synonymous with Canada, and the many holiday makers visiting Canada will be keen to try out the sport during their stay. If you’re eager to see the experts in action, Canada is the right place. Whistler Sports Legacies explains that British Columbia in particular regularly hosts several skiing championships. They say: “At Whistler Olympic Park, we have hosted Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined National Championships for the past couple of years in spring, and will do so again this year in from March 31st to April 2nd.” This year, renowned skier Nathaniel Mah will also be representing Canada in the Nordic Combined at the 2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Finland, so you can expect a lot of excitement in the lead-up to the event in March.
The Whistler Sliding Centre offers bobsleigh and skeleton for the public, and at the Olympic Park you can try out base boarding: “Like a hybrid of the sport of skeleton and bodyboarding on snow, riders descend down the groomed 1,500 metres course with banked turns and rollers.” Plus skiing, shooting, electric assist fat bikes, snowshoes and toboggans.
If you love sports with an artistic angle, why not check out some stunning world-class gymnastics in Canada? From 9th to 12th of March, you can see Olympic athletes compete in the international gymnastics competition held in Montreal. The event is unusual because it is one of the only international competitions offering apparatus raised on a podium for gymnasts to display their skills across the disciplines. Ex-gymnast Anais Favron, spokeswoman for the event, says that the proceedings will be “an incredible sporting event, a breath-taking show” and will be full of “fun activities for the whole family”. Former athletes to have graced the L’International Gymnix are 2008 Olympic beam champion Shawn Johnson and 2011 World Champion Jordyn Wieber.
One of the events which will undoubtedly make Canadians the proudest of hosts in 2017 is the Invictus Games. From the 23rd to the 30th of September, Toronto will hold the famous games where wounded, ill and injured military veterans compete in interdisciplinary competitions. As the country celebrates its 150th anniversary, it will also honour its soldiers and their families through these heart-warming games. Currently there are 550 competitors registered from across 17 nations, ready to take on 12 sports including wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, track and field events, plus the new addition of golf.
When Prince Harry established the games in 2014, he said:
“These Games shine a spotlight on the unconquerable character of servicemen and women and their families… These Games have been about seeing competitors sprinting for the finish line with everything they have and then turning around to clap the last person in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together. These Games have been a display of the very best of the human spirit.”
Wheelchair Hockey – the 2017 CEWHA Nationals
Another brilliant adaptable sport event that is well worth a visit in Canada this year is the 2017 Canadian Electric Wheelchair Hockey Association (CEWHA) Nationals. Donna Haycock, Chairman of the Board of the Ottawa Power Wheelchair Hockey League, explains the excitement leading up the event, which will be hosted in Ottawa this year:
“We are extremely honoured to be hosting the 2017 CEWHA Nationals this year as we celebrate Canada’s 150th! This is a celebration of what Canada is all about: diversity, inclusion and hockey!”
Since electric wheelchair hockey was born in 1975 of a group of teachers and social workers, the CEWHA has opened up this typically Canadian sport to a far wider pool of competitors, displaying true Canadian spirit.
Don’t miss: Ice Hockey
If you’re visiting Canada and want to immerse yourself in the country’s sporting culture, which one sport should be at the top of your list? The sport that remains iconic of the entire nation is ice hockey, so if there’s one sporting event you catch on holiday in Canada, this should be it. Duane Penner from sports travel website Road Trips comments:
“If you’re coming from the UK and really want to experience Canada, you have to make sure you see some hockey. You’ll be in a throng of fans who are really passionate, and somewhat better behaved that British football fans!” He continues, “Hockey is our national pastime – it is to us what soccer is to the Brits. It’s our game and we believe we are the best in the world. Of course, make sure you see the polar bears in Manitoba, and spend some time with our Eskimo and Inuit, but no holiday to Canada is complete without seeing some hockey.”
Sports events to try out in Canada
If you’re less of a spectator sports kind of person, but love getting active yourself, you’ll be pleased to know that there are countless sports that you can sample in Canada. From skiing in Alberta to kayaking around Vancouver Island, Canada is a hub of adventure sports that will satisfy even the biggest adrenalin junkie.
Trish Sare from active travel website Bike Hike recommends that cycling enthusiasts visiting Canada should hire a bike and participate in the Vancouver to Whistler Granfondo, a mass participation cycling event meaning ‘big ride’. She says:
“This is a cycle journey that attracts thousands of riders, and the landscape is dramatically beautiful along the Sea to Sky Highway that runs through the mountains with ocean views for much of the ride. There are distances from 50-150 kilometres.”
During the Granfondo, cyclists get a one-off opportunity to ride traffic-free along the famous Sea to Sky Highway, which is ranked the second-best attraction in Vancouver by TripAdvisor. Since it was founded in 2010, the event has won several awards and currently sees around 7,000 cyclists participating yearly. With the event ending with a massage and a party, this is not one to be missed!
Winter sports activities
If, like millions of others holiday-makers, you are visiting Canada for the snow, there are countless opportunities to try snowsports across the country. Whistler Sport Legacies recommend Sigge’s P’ayak, a: “mass cross-country race at Whistler Olympic Park with classes for pretty much all abilities”, with the main event – the Cross Country Ski Loppet 2017 – occurring on February 25th. There are also many ice rinks and frozen lakes to try your hand at skating, whether you’re a beginner or are looking to flaunt your finest pirouettes.”
So, whether you are more of a sports spectator or an extreme sports lover, it is very clear that Canada is the place to be!
Image credits: Andrey Yurlov (Shutterstock) Elliot (Wikimedia Commons) Keith Allison (Wikimedia Commons) Rockyrider (Wikimedia Commons) Letartean (Wikimedia Commons) Sportguru (Wikimedia Commons) Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault (Wikimedia Commons) Percita (Wikimedia Commons) Eugene Onischenko (Shutterstock) riekephotos (Shutterstock) Deb22 (Shutterstock)