Sport is a common language that can break down barriers. It brings people of different backgrounds together, transcends boundaries and provides a means of exchange and understanding.
Locally we see great diversity in the origins of the sports we play. The origins of many sports is widely disputed, but we've put together a collection of quick facts about many of the sports that are found in Lethbridge.
- Lacrosse - Also called 'The Creator's Game' is the oldest organized sport in North America, with its origins with the indigenous people of North America as early as the 12th century. In the 1840s, Europeans became interested in the game. The first recorded match between Europeans and members of the Mohawk tribe happened in August 1844. In 1856, the Montreal Lacrosse Club was formed in Quebec. Lacrosse is Canada's official national summer sport.
- Golf - While the modern game of golf originated in 15th-century Scotland, the game's ancient origins are unclear and much debated. Some historians trace the sport back to the Roman game of paganica, in which participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball. There is evidence that the roots of the game sprouted in the small town of Loenen aan de Vecht in the Netherlands when it was played there in 1297.
- Lethbridge has 5 golf courses, including Bridge Valley Golf Club, Evergreen Golf Center, Henderson Lake Golf Club, Paradise Canyon Golf Resort, and Lethbridge Country Club. Lots of courses have youth, women, senior, and group programs. To get a membership at any course, visit their Pro Shop
- Rugby - Rugby is said to have originated at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, in 1823 when during a game of football, William Webb Ellis decided to pick up a ball and go with it. While it is known that Webb Ellis was a student at Rugby School at the time, there is no direct evidence of the actual event having taken place, though it was cited by the Old Rugbeian Society in an 1897 report on the origins of the game. Nevertheless, Rugby School, whose name has been given to the sport, was pivotal in the development of rugby football, and the first rules of the game that became rugby union football were established there in 1845. Rugby among women is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports.
- There are many rugby programs in Lethbridge. You can reach the Lethbridge Rugby Club online at http://bridgerugby.ca/, they have programs for all ages. Additionally, there are high school teams at Winston Churchill, Chinook High School, Lethbridge Collegiate Institute (LCI), and the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns (women's team)
- Curling - The origin of curling traces back to 16th century Scotland, where the sport was played on frozen ponds and lochs. The first recorded match took place around 1541: a Scottish notary recorded a challenge between a monk at Paisley Abbey and a relative of the abbott.
- In Lethbridge, the Lethbridge Curling Club has recreational programs for all ages and they can be found online at http://www.lethbridgecurlingclub.com/. In addition, the local high schools, Winston Churchill, LCI, Catholic Central, and Chinook have teams and the University of Lethbridge has a competitive curling team.
- Football - Records trace the history of 'soccer' back more than 2,000 years ago to ancient China. Greece, Rome, and parts of Central America also claim to have started the sport; but it was England that transitioned soccer, or what the British and many other people around the world call “football,” into the game we know today. Modern football originated in Britain in the 19th century. Though “folk football” had been played since medieval times with varying rules, the game began to be standardized when it was taken up as a winter game at public schools.
- Lethbridge has many football options, including: Lethbridge Vipers Football Club https://www.facebook.com/Lethbridgevipersfootballclub/, Lethbridge Steel Women’s Tackle Football, http://www.lethbridgesteelfootball.com/, Lethbridge Flag Football Club, [email protected], Lethbridge Minor Football Association http://www.lethbridgeminorfootball.org/, and high school teams at Chinook, CCH, Winston Churchill, and LCI
- Cricket - Cricket is believed to have gotten its start in the 13th century in rural England, where it was played by shepherds. The wicket gate of the sheep paddock was used as a target and then a ball of rags or wool was pitched at the target. An opposing player would use a shepherd’s crooked staff to prevent the ball from hitting the target. Cricket is now played throughout the world, particularly in Australia, India, Pakistan, the West Indies, and the British Isles. Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world.
- Tennis - It’s believed that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all played some form of tennis. However, the linage of modern tennis starts around 1000 A.D. when it was played by French monks in a monastery.
- Baseball - Baseball probably descended from two games from England. The first is a game called rounders that was a children’s game that came to New England with the colonists, and the second is cricket. The foundation of modern baseball started in 1845 when a group of men in New York formed the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club.
- Soccer - Games similar to soccer can be dated all the way back to 2,500 B.C. in Ancient Egypt, where people kicked a ball around during the feast of the fertility. In China, from 476 B.C. to 221 B.C., people played a sport called cuju, which roughly translates to “kick the ball with foot.” The point of the game was to kick a leather ball stuffed with feathers through a cloth hung between two posts. They could use any part of their body, except for their hands. Soldiers used to play it in order to keep in shape. A similar game was played in Ancient Rome as well. There were 27 players on each team and they only had to get the ball in the other team’s goal.
- Badminton - Badminton originated in Gloucestershire, England in the late 19th century. Badminton’s roots are tied to the game of battledore and shuttlecock which can be traced back to ancient Greece. Battledore and shuttlecock was a simple game where players used paddles to hit a shuttlecock between them with the objective of keeping the shuttlecock from landing on the ground. This game was popular among children to play in England. British army officials stationed in Poona, India (current day Pune, India) during the 1860s evolved the battledore and shuttlecock game by introducing a net between the players. This resulted in badminton at that time being referred to as Poona. Retired British army officials returning to England introduced the sport to the guests of a lawn party hosted by the Duke of Beaufort at his residence known as Badminton House.
- Wrestling - The first real traces of the development of wrestling date back to the times of the Sumerians, 5000 years ago. The Epic of Gilgamesh written in cuneiform, the sculptures and the low reliefs, are numerous sources that reveal the first refereed competitions, accompanied by music. There are also many historical and archaeological traces of wrestling in Ancient Egypt. During the Ancient Olympic Games, from 708 B.C., wrestling was the decisive discipline of the Pentathlon.
- Ice Skating - Ice skating probably originated in Scandinavia over 2000 years ago as a means of transportation. It was also practised on the canals of Holland during the Middle Ages. Early references to skating in England date from the 17th century. The first skates were made from the shank or rib bones of elk, caribou and other animals, and the word "skate" likely derives from the early German word schake, meaning shank. As a social and recreational pastime, skating was popular in Britain and France during the 18th century, and the world's first skating club was formed in Edinburgh in 1742. In Canada, according to legends, the Iroquois used to skate, tying animal shinbones to their footwear with leather thongs; and in Acadia, French explorers were skating as early as 1604. Skating as a sport was introduced into Canada by British garrison officers in the 1840s, and quickly gained a strong following.
- Basketball - Basketball was invented in December 1891 by the Canadian clergyman, educator, and physician James Naismith. Naismith introduced the game when he was an instructor at the Young Men's Christian Association Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts. The game rapidly spread nationwide and to Canada and other parts of the world, played by both women and men.
- Speed Skating - Speed skating began as a rapid form of transportation across frozen lakes and rivers. The first known skating competition is thought to have been held in the Netherlands in 1676. However, the first official speed skating events were not held until 1863 in Oslo, Norway.
Do you know the origins of another sport not mentioned here? Let us know by emailing [email protected]
In addition to other cultures shaping Canadian Sport, Canadian Sport is important to other cultures.
- Hockey Night in Canada is broadcast in 7 different languages. It has been broadcast in Punjabi since 2008, and in 2021 was expanded to include languages commonly spoken in the NHL’s seven Canadian markets: Cantonese and Mandarin in Vancouver, Hindi in Calgary, Vietnamese in Edmonton, Tagalog in Winnipeg, Cantonese in Toronto, Arabic in Ottawa and German in Montreal. All seven streams for Hockey Night in Canada’s multilingual edition are available nationwide.
- Hockey's true origins are murky. But Canada, beginning in the 19th century, gets credit for modernizing—and popularizing—the game we know today. The origins of ice hockey may date to stick-and-ball games played during the Middle Ages in ancient Greece and Egypt. Today, approximately 80 countries play hockey and 74 countries participate in the championship leagues.
- The sport of ringette was invented to make sport more inclusive. It was important for creator Sam Jacks that his invented sport emphasized healthy competition and that the rules enabled maximum participation for all of the sixteen members. Therefore, the game was structured to be wide open and dynamic so that success depended on skating skill and agility. The first ringette game was played in Espanola in Northern Ontario in the winter of 1963. Emphasizing the inclusive nature of the sport, today ringette is played by over 30,000 Canadians.
- One Canadian sport that was invented for people with limited use of their arms and hands to enjoy the speed and physical intensity of competition was wheelchair rugby. Combining aspects of basketball, rugby, and handball, players use wheelchairs that are designed to tackle and block their opponents while also strategically cooperating to carry the ball over the opponent's goal line. Following Canada's first Canadian National Wheelchair Rugby Championship in 1979, the sports international profile grew rapidly becoming a full medal Paralympic event in 2000. At the 2016 Rio Paralympics, there were wheelchair rugby teams from 8 countries.
- Thomas "Tommy" Ryan opened Canada's first 10-pin bowling alley in 1905 in Toronto. His customers complained that the 16-pound bowling ball was too heavy and that the game took too long to finish. Ryan experimented with other bowling games and eventually created a game called 5-pin bowling by 1909 that used smaller balls, five lighter pins and a new scoring system. He never patented his invention and thus did not profit from it.
- George Beers was instrumental in promoting the game of lacrosse in Canada. He codified the rules of the sport and promoted it as Canada's national game. He promoted the game as one that trained a young man to temperance, confidence and pluck. Lacrosse was reconfirmed by parliament as Canada's National (Summer) Sport in 1994. George Beers brought the game of lacrosse to European audiences in 1876 and 1883. Lacrosse was played at two Olympics Games, 1904 in St. Louis and 1908 in London. This is the gold medal was won by the Canadian team in 1908. Lacrosse is now played internationally by men and women.