Lacrosse is officially the national sport of Canada, but for most Albertans either rodeo or hockey (no need to call it “ice hockey” in Canada) is number one. Rodeo has its roots in the working lifestyle of cowboys. What began as friendly banter among cowboys as to who could ride the wildest horse and rope the fastest steer formed the basis of Wild West shows that have evolved into a streamlined professional sport in which cowboys and cowgirls compete for millions of dollars. Alberta’s most famous rodeo, and one of the world’s best known, is the Calgary Stampede (www.calgarystampede.com), held every year during the second week of July.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (403/250-7440, www.rodeocanada.com) controls more than 60 annual events throughout Canada (most in Alberta) from mid-March (Lethbridge) to the national finals held in Edmonton in early November. Smaller rodeos are sanctioned by regional associations, and these can be the most fun, with minimal admission charges, wild wipeouts, and fun riding events for local children; these are also included on the CPRA schedule.
The hockey season may be only eight months long, but to fans of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames—Alberta’s National Hockey League (NHL) teams—it’s a year-round obsession. The best seats are taken by die-hard season-ticket holders, but for $55–220 you can usually score tickets through Ticketmaster a few days in advance. Both cities also have professional Canadian Football League (CFL) teams that play June–October.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition