Celebrating Canadian sport on Canada Day | Sports | CBC Sports

Celebrating Canadian sport on Canada Day

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2013 | 09:48 AM

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Women's soccer star Christine Sinclair is just one of many Canadian athletes to proudly wear the Maple Leaf in international competition. (Chris Young/Canadian Press) Women's soccer star Christine Sinclair is just one of many Canadian athletes to proudly wear the Maple Leaf in international competition. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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I've often wondered why Canada Day is not celebrated in winter instead of summer. 

From a sporting perspective Canada Day in winter makes sense. Thoughts of winter athletic-achievements-past litter our national folklore.
I've often wondered why Canada Day is not celebrated in winter instead of summer.

We are, after all, a winter nation that's covered in snow and ice for most or much of the year.

I always thought Canada Day should be celebrated on February 1st, not July 1st.

Yes, I know that the British North America Act, which helped form present day Canada, was signed on the first day of July in 1867. 

It's just that my romantic vision of Confederation has always been coloured by images of John A. MacDonald and company wearing fur hats, their important proclamations punctuated by breath frozen in the winter air.

Maybe there was a hockey game going on somewhere nearby on a frozen rink. After all, Lord Frederick Stanley was present that day, too.

From a sporting perspective Canada Day in winter makes sense. Thoughts of winter athletic-achievements-past litter our national folklore.

Paul Henderson, The Crazy Canucks and Clara Hughes (speed skating edition) are as readily identifiable as Canadian as the beaver, loon and moose. 

In fact, thinking back to Messrs Podborski, Read and Irwin rocketing down the icy slopes of Kitzbuhel they might be even better representatives on our $1 coin than the bird. The nickname could certainly stay the same.

Warm weather athletes

Yet as I get older, my perception of what Canada Day was, and is, is thawing.

I recognize that, beyond the historical significance of July 1st, mid-summer is as Canadian as it gets. The farther North you go in our country the more you realize it. I've never felt more joy in being Canadian as when I played in midnight softball tournaments in Yellowknife or Whitehorse.

Paddling down the Bow River near Banff, hiking near Jasper, or playing beach volleyball in Vancouver or Toronto match any high I've encountered playing sports in wintertime.

Further melting my image of Canadiana is the fact that many of our warm weather athletes are making historic strides.

In tennis, four Canadians made it through to the second round of Wimbledon. That hasn't happened in quarter a century. And while Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard might not have won this year's event at the All-England Club, analysts like John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova believed they could. Beyond that, Canada will play in the semi-finals of the Davis Cup in Serbia this September. Raise your hand if you thought that would happen in your lifetime.

If you now have your arm in the air then you probably also forecasted the success of Ryder Hesjedal. Last summer the Victoria native won the world's second most important cycling race, the Giro D'Italia. This summer he'll try to win the sport's biggest race, the Tour de France. Don't bet against him. He finished sixth at the race in 2010 and has an even stronger team this time.

High draft picks on Team Canada

Speaking of teams, what are we to think of the potential of Canada's men's basketball squad come the next Summer Olympics?

They'll be young, but they'll also be supremely talented. By far the most gifted team Canada has ever sent to the Games.

Canada will boast a slew of first round NBA draft picks. Brampton's Anthony Bennett just became the first Canuck taken first overall. Kamloops' Kelly Olynyk wasn't far behind, taken 13th.

Next year's presumptive first pick is Toronto's Andrew Wiggins, who some believe has more talent than any draftee since LeBron James.

For basketball fans in Canada, the summer of 2016 can't come soon enough.

Meanwhile, for Canadian soccer fans, the target date is Summer 2015. That's when Christine Sinclair and company will play host at the FIFA Women's World Cup. Coming off of a bronze medal performance at the London Olympics, hopes are high. With news that star forward Kara Lang is coming out of retirement, hopes will be even higher.

This Canada Day, as is custom, hundreds of new citizens will be sworn in.

Most will be from countries where summer sports, not winter athletic pursuits, will be more familiar to them.

Still, many of their kids will try to assimilate by choosing hockey, learning to ski or maybe trying their hand at curling.

It's about being Canadian.

But I for one, will put a bug in my five year old son's ear over the Canada Day weekend to consider playing a less "traditional" sport.

Lacrosse.

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