Winter Sports a Passion in the Great White North

It was a green Christmas in many parts of Canada, with an El Nino weather cycle bringing Christmas Eve weather more suitable for golf than winter sports to many parts of the nation. That shouldn’t prevent lovers of snow and ice from travelling to the Great White North, where the long winter nights are best occupied on the one of the thousands of ski slopes or ice rinks that dot the planet’s second-largest nation.

However, with temperatures reaching into the mid-teens Celsius over the Christmas holidays, it may be a shorter than expected season on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Located in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, the Skateway is the world’s largest skating rink, measuring 7.8 kilometers in length, stretching from Canada’s Parliament Buildings to Carleton University.
Open 24 hours a day, typically from early January to mid-March, the Rideau Canal Skateway is a central feature of the city’s Winterlude festival, with the 38th edition of the annual event scheduled to feature a number of Sub Zero Concerts in 2016.

With some Canadians holding barbeques instead of building snowmen on Christmas Day, travellers visiting Canada in search of winter sport may be forced inside, to one or more of the nation’s 2500 indoor hockey rinks.

Canada’s gift to the world, the first organized game of ice hockey was played at Montreal’s McGill University in 1875. A century and a half later, the game has spread throughout the United States and Europe, and has become the most watched and highly anticipated event at the Winter Olympics.

Many of the best young hockey players in the world come to Canada to hone their skills with one of the 60 major junior teams located across Canada and in American border towns, hoping to get their shot at the big time in the National Hockey League.

Seven of the NHL’s 30 teams are based in Canada, including the legendary Montreal Canadiens.

Playing out of the Bell Centre, considered by many to be the loudest building in hockey, the Canadiens are the most successful team in NHL history, amassing 24 Stanley Cup championships, placing them in the upper echelon among other great sports franchises, such as the New York Yankees and Manchester United.

But it has now been over two decades since a Canadian-based NHL team last rose Lord Stanley’s Mug, with Montreal last winning in 1993.

That has not kept rabid hockey fans away from the rinks, which are filled to capacity night after night for NHL games in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.

Indeed, hockey has become central to Canadian culture and entertainment, influencing music, fashion, and politics.

During the winter, hockey fans are glued to their screens, watching their favourite teams on the ice, while participating in fantasy leagues and pools.

In the off-season, hockey diehards satisfy their appetite playing hockey-themed online casino games like Break-Away Slots at Royal Vegas Canadian Casino.

Casino gambling has gained in popularity in Canada in recent years, with casinos located in or near most of the country’s major cities.

Online casinos like Royal Vegas Canadian Casino have enjoyed similar growth in popularity, offering a fun and secure online experience to Canadians looking to enjoy online slots, video poker, and a wide variety of table games.

Regardless of the temperature outside when you visit Canada this winter, there will be something for everyone, whether you are looking to play on the ice, in the snow, or on the felt.

*Photo from wikimedia

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