Connection between community, geography and sport

The story

When athletes compete in games and tournaments, they are proud representatives of their hometowns. Coaches, trainers, supporters, infrastructure, location and local geography all influence an athlete’s development.

Prior to the development of large, indoor sports facilities – and influenced by Ontario’s often harsh, long winters and moderate summers – the choice of sport and the season of play were often determined by climate. When Ontario was established in 1867, popular winter activities included skating, tobogganing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, skiing and curling. In the summer, there was track and field, swimming, cricket, cycling, rugby and golf.

Early sport was localized and provided different forms of leisure activity to people in both the countryside and the city. Leisure time in urban areas revolved around factory hours, while in more rural areas around the farm schedule, which meant that most activities took place on Saturday. Through Victoria and Dominion Day celebrations, sporting events became a larger component of the community as people came together to play games and take pride in their nation and empire. An emphasis was placed on games, team sports and healthy public competition.

At the turn of the 20th century, many northern Ontario logging and mining towns were home to world-class professional sports teams, funded by industrialists for the purpose of entertaining the workforce and as the subject of high-stakes gambling between owners. Professional hockey teams existed in Kenora, Cobalt, Renfrew and Haileybury. Throughout the course of the century, organized, competitive sports developed as leisure time became more abundant. Improved transportation within the province (road, rail and air) further enabled a competitive sporting culture to become a significant component of community life.