Canadian Provinces Without Major Sports Teams
Despite the popularity of professional sports in Canada, there are five provinces that do not have major league sports teams when defined as Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League, the traditional four major North American professional sports leagues). The Canadian Football League is represented in an additional province, leaving four provinces with no major professional sports franchises. These are listed below.
The reasons for this are mixed. Small population densities hurt TV contracts, advertising, ticket sales, attendance, and government funding for the required facilities and salaries of the players. In some cases, provinces can be grouped together (though not in name). A good example would be the Montreal Canadiens, who have a sizable number of fans in Atlantic Canada. Similarly, fans of Alberta teams can be found in Saskatchewan, and fans of Ontario teams can be found in Manitoba.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Raptors, as the only current Canadian teams in their respective leagues, have at least the potential for nationwide support. The Jays' television blackout area includes all of Canada, although the Maritimes and the four provinces of Western Canada are shared with U.S.-based teams. The Raptors are the focal point of NBA TV Canada, which is owned by the team's parent company.
In many cases, American teams can be met with support from areas in Canada where an American team is closer than a Canadian team. For example fans of teams in Minnesota and Wisconsin can be found in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario; teams in Seattle and Portland, Oregon in southern British Columbia; teams in Midwestern and northeastern states in southern Ontario, and fans of teams from northeastern states in southern Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Also, fans in a city or province that lost a team sometimes support the city that the team moved to. For example, Colorado Avalanche and Washington Nationals fans can be found in Quebec, and Memphis Grizzlies fans can be found in British Columbia. Before the return of the NHL to Winnipeg in 2011, Phoenix Coyotes fans could be found in Manitoba.
Saskatchewan is now the largest province in terms of population without a major sports team. The nearest such teams vary by location within the province. The closest teams in baseball, American football, and basketball are in Minnesota and Colorado, while the closest hockey teams are in Alberta and Manitoba. Nova Scotia is the largest province without a bordering province with a team. As is the case with the other Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador, they tend to support teams from Quebec and the Northeastern US.
The three Canadian territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon) have never had a professional sports team. The reasons for this are mainly due to their sparse populations (the combined population of the territories is barely over 100,000), undersized arenas, and distance from Canada's major cities. The closest the territories ever had was the Dawson City Nuggets, who unsuccessfully challenged for the Stanley Cup in 1905. The territories are quite big, so the teams that their population supports can spread across the whole country.
In place of major league teams, Canadian Hockey League teams enjoy quite a lot of attention, such as the London Knights of the OHL, the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, and the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. College sports in Canada are not nearly as successful as their American counterparts, no matter what sport it happens to be, though high school teams do enjoy high levels of support depending on the location.
The latest removal from this list is Manitoba, after the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg after the 2010–11 season to become the new version of the Winnipeg Jets. The city had lost an earlier version of the Jets to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996. During the league's absence from Winnipeg, fan support for a return to Winnipeg was high, but financial issues and lack of interest from potential team owners were obstacles for many years. While a new arena, MTS Centre, opened in Winnipeg in 2005, it was small by NHL standards. However, poor home attendance in Atlanta led to the sale of the Thrashers in 2011. With the recent rise of the Canadian dollar to essential parity with its U.S. counterpart, Winnipeg became a much more viable franchise location.
The last prior removal was Alberta in 1979, after the Edmonton Oilers moved to the NHL upon the merger of the NHL and the WHA. The Oilers have since been joined by the Calgary Flames. Though the Oilers have come under the threat of relocation in the past, the new salary cap era of the NHL, plus the tremendous economic growth of the province in recent years, have helped to ensure they stay in Alberta for the foreseeable future.
Many Canadian fans consider the Canadian Football League as a major sports league, especially considering the lack of Canadian teams in the NFL. Also, the per-game attendance in the CFL would place that league seventh among all professional leagues in the world; although well behind the NFL, its attendance is near that of MLB, and ahead of leagues such as Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, La Liga in Spanish soccer and Serie A in Italian soccer. If the CFL were counted, then only the Atlantic provinces and the territories would have no major sports teams. Of the remaining provinces, Nova Scotia would be the largest in terms of population.
Read more about Canadian Provinces Without Major Sports Teams: List of Canadian Provinces & Territories Without Major Sports Teams
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