Top 10 Most Popular Sports In Canada, 2023 Statistics

The Top 10 Most Popular Sports In Canada with Statistics
  • Ice hockey remains top on the list of the most popular sports in Canada.
  • The sports landscape is diverse and rich, and Canadians passionately play and watch several sports for various reasons, including the weather.
  • These reasons contribute to the popularity of outdoor sports like baseball, hockey, and soccer in the country as they help its citizens stay fit and warm during the winter.

Canada is home to one of the most breathtaking sceneries, with a population of over 38 million avid sports lovers.

The North American country also hosts some of the world’s top professional leagues, making it easier for fans to follow their preferred clubs every season.

This article will analyze the most popular sports in Canada according to credible statistics and studies.

1. Ice Hockey (21 Million Fans)

Professional Ice Hockey Action

Ice hockey is Canada’s most popular sport, thanks to the sport’s history and climate support.

Like lacrosse, the Parliament declared ice hockey “Canada’s National Winter Sport.”

About 15.6 million people in Canada watched the Stanley Cup Finals in 2022, according to Statista.1

15.6 million is a massive figure, but more people followed ice hockey in the early 2010s; about 83% of Canadians (28.2 million) watched the sport weekly in 2010.2

In 2021, a report on the National Hockey League (NHL) site estimated an average of 2.1 million viewers on Sportsnet in Canada for the Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leaf game, setting a company record for the most-watched regular-season game aired exclusively on the network.3

A few million have reduced since 2010, though, with about 55% (21 million) as NHL fans.

2. Lacrosse (100,000 Participants)

Lacrosse Players in Action

Canadians’ love for lacrosse, especially in summer, can be compared to a few; no wonder the Parliament declared lacrosse “Canada’s National Summer Sport.”

The sport’s popularity dates back to the mid-1800s when only field lacrosse was in vogue until the 1930s when fellow citizens embraced box lacrosse.

Both lacrosse variants have amassed about 100,000 registered players, with millions being direct or indirect fans, as they believe engaging in lacrosse is worthwhile.4

The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), debuting in 2019, enjoyed large viewership figures, capturing over 400,000 viewers across all platforms.

While the league roots in the United States, Canada is the only country associated with the league, albeit the United States.

Therefore, a substantial amount of the 400,000 viewers recorded in the league’s debut season are Canadians.

Inadequate data concerning viewership makes it difficult to determine a narrow lacrosse fanship range in Canada.

Still, its association and history with the sport are enough to help us rank it among the country’s top-two most popular sports.

3. Football/Soccer (20 Million Fans)

Association Football/Soccer Players Competing

World football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the world, and Canada contributes to about 20 million of its fanship.

Since its advent in the country in 1876, many Canadians have relished the sport’s flair.

About 2.7 million people enjoy it as registered players in about 1450 clubs to become the country’s most popular sport in terms of the participation rate.

Canadians are quite passionate about soccer and supporting their county in international football matches.

Up to four million people watch major football games or tournaments featuring Canada.5

An estimated 1.15 million Canadians watched their country’s World Cup Qualifier against Mexico in November 2021.

The latter is the largest viewership figure on record for a live soccer broadcast in Canada in the last twelve years.6

4. Basketball (20 Million Fans)

High Angle Basketball Dunk

The United States has the world’s largest basketball audience, but Canada is not far behind, with an estimated twenty million fans.

Toronto Raptors from Ontario, Canada, is one of the NBA teams, making it one of the world’s most popular basketball teams.

In 2019, the Toronto Raptors Game 1 victory over Golden State Warriors became the most-watched NBA game in Canada on Sportsnet, with 7.4 million Canadians helping the franchise set a national-level broadcast viewership record.7

The number would increase by the end of the NBA finals that year, with about fifty-six percent of the country’s population (20.5 million viewers) watching all or part of the series.8

Also See: The Most Popular Sports in America

5. Tennis (17.6 Million Fans)

Tennis Serve

Bianca Andreescu needed quite the support she had to become the highest-ranked Canadian Women’s Tennis Association’s history.

How much support? 18.5 million Canadians have played tennis in their lifetime, and 2.9 million have at least once a week during the tennis season.9

These numbers indicate that tennis is one of the most popular sports in Canada.

About 47% of Canadians (approximately 17.6 million) follow tennis, with roughly 6.5 million participating recreationally, competitively, or professionally.

6. Baseball (8.41 Million Fans)

Close Up Baseball Batter and Catcher Watching in Action

“Cricket is a gentle pastime. Baseball is war!” It is a common saying in the United States, but the reaction of Canadians to both sports is evident in this saying concerning popularity.

In fact, Canada has a competitive baseball team in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Toronto Blue Jays, that drew 451,000 viewers to their spring training home opener in March 2022.10

Undoubtedly, many Canadians, about 22% of the country’s population (8.41 million), are interested in baseball.11

An estimate by Statista in 2020 reports that 46% of Canadian (17.2 million) respondents watched baseball at some point in 2019.12

In 2016, Canada had 105,799 registered male and 11,546 female players, with thousands playing non-professionally.13

7. Golf (6.0 Million Fans)

Close Up Golf Player

Golf’s existence in Canada dates back to 1873 when the Montreal Golf Club was established.

The sport has spent almost 150 years in the country and has been popular among its citizens since the 1890s.

Mike Weir, George Knudson, and Stan Leonard are some popular Canadian golfers, but over six million others currently play golf.14

Some hope to become renowned athletes for their contribution to golf, while others enjoy the sport as leisure.

About 2.78 million people recently enjoyed the  PGA Tour Canadian Open on CBS, the largest viewership audience in the past two decades.15

8. Curling (5.2 Million Fans)

Curling Woman Starts Launch a Stone

Curling might not be one of the world’s most popular sports. Still, it has managed to rank amongst Canada’s most extensively enjoyed sports, with almost two million recreational or competitive participants.16

The country’s cold weather supports the sport, which is played on an ice sheet towards a target area; little wonder 5.2 million Canadians enjoyed 2021’s ten-day competition.17

Curling once enjoyed nationwide acclaim among the female folk, ranking as the country’s most televised women’s sport, while Ford Canada has sponsored the World Curling Championship since 1995.18

9. Rugby Union (2.08 Million Fans)

Men Playing in Rugby Union Game

Rugby in Canada will be two centuries old in 2023, first played in 1823 and helping to foster development in some Canadian regions.

Sadly, the sport is quite behind in popularity compared to other sports like basketball, soccer, and tennis.

Still, it is popular enough to feature among the most enjoyed sports in the North American country.

Over 28,000 registered people play rugby union in Canada, with about 2.08 million people watching Major League Rugby (MLR) on the CBS broadcast.

10. Cricket (250,000 Fans)

Cricket Player Batting Ball

Indeed, Canada is not sanctioned to participate in cricket test matches.

Still, it does little to undermine cricket’s popularity in the country with its competitive women’s cricket team and sensational U-19 that has taken part in three World Cup events.

While it might not be on the same page as baseball, we can estimate over 40,000 cricketers nationwide, with an audience of over 209,800, mainly youths between 25 and 34 years old.19 20

Canadians enjoy cricket for its physical and mental demands, availability on gambling platforms, diversity among cultures, and affordability (requiring only a bat, ball, and some open space).

Even schools in Canada have cricket teams, with some schools offering it as an extracurricular activity for its reduced physicality and increased inclusiveness compared to other popular sports like hockey.

The Top 10 Most Popular Sports in Canada

Below is a summary of the most favorite sports in Canada right now.

RankFavorite SportEst. Fans Nationwide
1Ice Hockey21 Million
2LacrosseMillions (100,000 Participants)
3Football/Soccer20 Million
4Basketball20 Million
5Tennis17.6 Million
6Baseball8.4 Million
7Golf6 Million
8Curling5.2 Million
9Rugby Union2.08 Million

Wrap Up

Canada may be famous for its beautiful scenery, but it is one North American country where people are passionate about sports.

While the ten sports discussed above are the most popular in the country, there are facilities for other sports, including shooting, polo, boxing, rock climbing, and powerboat racing. 

Next up…

References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. Ice hockey in Canada – statistics & facts. Statista.
  2. Over 80 per cent of Canadians watch hockey each week: survey. CityNews Toronto.
  3. NHL opens season with record viewership in United States, Canada. NHL.
  4. 17 Thrilling Sports Stats from Canada to Check Out. Reviewlution.
  5. The Growth Of Soccer In Canada Ahead Of 2022. World Football index.
  6. The Canadian mens’ national soccer team is taking the world by storm. The Varsity.
  7. NBA Finals ratings released, Canada sets records. NBA.
  8. Frequency of watching basketball among sports fans in Canada as of January 2019. Statista.
  9. Let’s Play Year Round [pdf]. Tennis Canada.
  10. Blue Jays’ Spring Home Opener Records Stunningly High TV Viewership. SI FanNation.
  11. Winning MLB fans in Canada. Mintel.
  12. Frequency of watching baseball among sports fans in Canada as of January 2019. Statista.
  13. Amateur baseball booming in Canada, but some kids are left behind. Sportsnet.
  14. Golf Industry Calls for Tax Fairness for Canada’s Most Popular Sport. PGA of Canada.
  15. Ratings: PGA Tour, Belmont, MLB. Sports Media Watch.
  16. 2019 Annual Report [pdf]. Curling Canada.
  17. Canadian men’s curling championship final ratings down 33% from 2020. Global News.
  18. Curling. The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  19. Do They Play Cricket In Canada? HipUrbanGirl
  20. Cricket Fans in Canada. Start

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