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—and that’s sports. From ice hockey to the skeleton bobsleigh, Canada’s dramatic climate and geography make it the perfect place for some of the world’s most exciting sporting events.
No holiday to Canada is complete without immersing yourself in the nation’s sporting culture so, on your next Canada car rental holiday, be sure to fit these top sporting events into your road trip.
Top sports competitions in Canada
The Stanley Cup
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. One of the biggest and most famous annual sporting events in Canada is the Stanley Cup which has been organised by the country’s National Hockey League (NHL) since 1893. The Cup itself has been on various detours over the years, from being used as a cereal bowl, tossed into a swimming pool and even lost on a flight from New Jersey to Vancouver.
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!” 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.”
SEE ALSO: Ice Hockey: a true Canadian passion
NBA Playoffs and Finals
While you might associate basketball more readily with the United States than Canada, the USA’s northerly neighbour often excels in this classic sport. The Toronto Raptors are Canada’s pride and joy in the NBA and since the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001, they are the only team representing the country.
Agile, fast-paced and full of spontaneous dances and music, a Canadian basketball game is a fantastic experience for sports fans in search of 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 an underrated spectator sport which is a little like boules on ice. Canada excels at curling, winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in 2018 while holding the most titles in the World Curling Championships. Each year, the Tim Hortons Brier takes place, an event which sees 15 teams compete for the Brier Tankard. Al Cameron from Curling Canada explains:
“The Tim Hortons Brier is an iconic piece of Canada. 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!”
Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec et de Montréal (GPCQM)
The Grand Prix Cyclistes de Quebec et de Montreal, or the GPCQM for short, is held yearly at the Grande 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
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 the skeleton. Whistler Sport Legacies explains: “We have World Cups every winter leading up to the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships.” These events are usually on an international scale, including the BMW IBSF World Cups and the Intercontinental Cup.
Ski Jumping Nordic Combined National Championships
Skiing is synonymous with Canada, and many holidaymakers will be keen to try out the sport during their stay whilst seeing the experts in action. 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..”
The Whistler Sliding Centre offers bobsleigh and skeleton for the public, and at the Olympic Park you can try out base boarding. Whistler Sports Legacies mentions that “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, you can also try skiing, shooting, electric-assist fat bikes, snowshoes and toboggans.
Another brilliant adaptable sporting event is the 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 to the annual event: “The CEWHA Nationals is a celebration of what Canada is
all about: diversity, inclusion and hockey!”
Since electric wheelchair hockey was introduced in 1975 by 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.
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.
SEE ALSO: Which Canadian sport should you play?
- Kayaking -There are over 2 million lakes in Canada, so one of the best ways to explore the country is from a canoe or kayak. Challenge yourself by trying this sport and showing off your paddle skills as you witness some of Canada’s most incredible natural beauty.
- The Gran Fondo – Ride traffic-free along the famous Sea to Sky Highway, which is ranked the second-best attraction in Vancouver by TripAdvisor and has won several awards. The Gran Fondo currently sees around 7,000 cyclists participating yearly. With the event ending with a party, this is not one to be missed!
- Five pin bowling – This game is massively popular across Canada, with many people choosing to play it at parties, fundraisers and as a fun-filled activity for the family. First played in 1909, it follows a similar format to ten-pin bowling, just with half the number of pins.
- Lacrosse – In 1994, Lacrosse became Canada’s national summer sport, meaning that this is a great activity to try out over the warmer months. This field game is perfect for teams and allows you to run, carry, catch and pass a ball between players.
SEE ALSO: A guide to Canada’s sports teams