Cricket and football originates here
Canadian sports has evolved over the years from grass root level to attracting millions of participants and audiences from around the world. While Canadian football has become a household sport and has slowly gained an international reputation, cricket has faced a less glamourous fortune.
Currently, cricket is one of the most followed sports in the world with a fanbase of over 2 billion people—despite it being a majority sport in just a few countries. The earliest reference of the sport in Canada is in the year 1785 where some matches were played in Montreal. However, just like with the history of Canadian football and its evolution from rugby, the sport was introduced into the country by British soldiers.
The origins of Canadian cricket spring mainly from Toronto—formerly known as York town. George A. Barber, a young English schoolmaster was one of the pioneers of the sport in the early nineteenth century. In 1827, he was one of the founders of the renowned Toronto Cricket Club and two years later, he played a key role in introducing the sport into newly established colleges in Canada. Due to his immense contributions, Barber is regarded as the father of Canadian cricket.
Today, most cricket fans still falsely believe the first international cricket game was between England and Australia. In fact, the first-ever international cricket match took place in Bloomingdale Park, Manhattan between Canada and the United States in 1844. A crowd of 5,000 people witnessed Canada beat the U.S. by 23 runs. In 1867, when Canada officially became a nation, the game of cricket had become so popular it was declared the country’s official sport by the first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald and his cabinet.
However, following the Civil War and with the advancement of baseball down south in the U.S., cricket began to suffer a steady decline, despite tour efforts by both the English and Australian teams. But today, what was previously a lack of interest in the game has metamorphosed into a lack of playing facilities for interested players.
Team sports like cricket and football often involves some form of gambling, whether formal or informal. Formal big stakes wagering become more characteristic as the games grew in popularity and fanbase. Platforms like Vernons introduced prized competitions as early as 1887, offering printed coupons to readers but has now transitioned to more advanced online gaming.
Canadian football also had a rapid evolution around the same time cricket was spreading across the country. In 1874, the Americans were introduced to a game played with an oval-shaped ball and rules similar to that of rugby by their Canadian neighbours. In that same year, the annual matches between Harvard and McGill Universities kicked off. Their love for the sport led to Americans moving away from association football—regarded as soccer in North America today—and adopting the oval ball and rugby-esque sport introduced by Canadians.
One major contributing factor to the longstanding success of football is its links to Canadian and American colleges and universities. In Canada, football was largely based in Québec and Ontario, with the first national football championship being held in 1884.
Historically, the Canadian sports scene has always been populated by immigrants who brought along some of their now favourite sports, often adapting them to the rather cold and snowy environment. British soldiers, officers, and royal officials—and even ordinary British immigrants as well—were responsible for introducing and promoting games such as football, rugby, and cricket in Canada. The Britons considered these sports to be perfect for relieving boredom on remote outposts, and effective at producing good team spirit, health, manliness, and hardiness, and manliness. To them, cricket and football were a much more sophisticated alternative to blood sports such as bear-baiting, bullfighting, and cockfighting.
Currently, there is still growing interest in cricket in Canada but while it hasn’t gained popularity like Canadian football has, it shares similar roots since they were both influenced by the British. However, cricket still remains in contention with baseball for interest, while Canadian football strives to be on par with American football in terms of popularity and international acclaim.