While there are fleeting references to cricket being played in Canada in the 18th century, it only established a more substantial footing in the 1820s with the founding of the Toronto Cricket Club in 1827 by George Barber, a master at Upper Canada College and newspaper publisher. He instigated local matches and in 1844 Canada met USA in what is widely believed to be the oldest international sporting contest in the world. The game, at the St. George's Club in New York, attracted large crowds and reportedly more than $100,000 in bets changed hands.
George Parr of Notts brought the first touring team to Canada from England in 1859, and although the tourists were far too strong for the locals the visit was a great success, becoming the first cricket tour in history. During these years of healthy cricket activity in the east, the game was spreading rapidly in the west. In 1864 the North West Cricket Club was formed at Winnipeg and in 1876 the famous Victoria Cricket Club was formed on the west coast. Cricket had already been played in both areas prior to the formation of these two clubs, but the game was now beginning to take hold in the west and as a result the sport was played from coast to coast.
By the 1860s the game was booming and when Canada became a nation in 1867 the prime minister declared cricket to be the national sport. In 1872 a third England side, including WG Grace toured, and the Australians visited for the first time six years later
A weak Canadian side toured England in 1880, then in 1887 the first major tour was undertaken by an all Canadian-born team. The side toured England under the captaincy of Dr ER Ogden and took on several of the counties on level terms. The team far from disgraced itself, recording wins over Ireland, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, and Leicester. In 1905 and 1907 MCC teams made brief tours to the USA and Canada.
The USA v Canada series reached its zenith in the 1890s, at which time the USA were strong enough to tour England themselves. But the growth of baseball and World War One saw cricket decline in popularity both sides of the border. The series with the USA ceased in 1912 and Canada did not play any overseas opposition until 1932 when Vic Richardson brought a strong Australian side including Don Bradman - he lived up to his reputation by smashing 260 not out against Western Ontario. Tours took place to and from the country in the 1930s - a public schools representative side was in Canada when war broke out in September 1939.
After the war, touring resumed and a visit from MCC (1951) was followed by Canada touring England in 1954 where they played four first-class matches, including a game against the Pakistanis at Lord's. In 1958 Pakistan played a single match against Canada in Toronto at Varsity Stadium.
In 1963 the series against the USA was resumed at Toronto, while tours continued to arrive and the game was popularised by the increasing numbers of immigrants from the Caribbean and then the subcontinent. In April 1968 the Canadian Cricket Association was incorporated. Australia played four matches in Canada on their way to the first Prudential World Cup in 1975 and an Eastern Canada side beat Australia by five wickets in Toronto.
Canada entered the inaugural ICC Trophy in 1979 and finished as runners-up to Sri Lanka, a result which earned them a place in the World Cup proper which followed but they were easily beaten by Pakistan, Australia, and England. Throughout the next two decades Canada continued to perform admirably, although never recapturing the success of 1979.
The large expat community led to Canada being identified as a potential venue for matches as the game looked to broaden its horizons. In 1989 a game took place between Rest of the World and West Indies which attracted more than 40,000, and in 1996 the Toronto Club hosted a one-day series featuring India and Pakistan, and this continued for four years. Official ODIs resumed in 2006 when Canada played their first games, although they had hosted the 2001 ICC Trophy
While Canada has benefited from the ICC's desire to expand the game, it still faces major logistical problems. The season is short, the facilities are almost all shared with other sports and owned by local authorities, and the government, which used to back the sport, no longer does. Like the USA, the domination by expats, while improving the standard, raises concerns for the future and for the development of home-grown talent.
The John Ross Robertson Trophy
The John Ross Robertson Trophy is presented to the winner of an annual National club competition. The handsome silver trophy was first presented in 1910, after being donated by John Ross Robertson, owner of the Toronto Evening Telegram. Robertson was a well-known public figure and benefactor, and he is better remembered as the founder of the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.
Rosedale CC won the first Trophy in 1910, but the dominant club for years was Toronto CC, who won it a record 16 times consecutively between 1932 and 1947. In 1982, the Trophy was re-organized to award a western and eastern Trophy, with a championship game arranged when possible.
Canada v USA
The longest international rivalry in cricket, in fact in any sport is that between Canada and the USA, with the first match (won by Canada) played in 1844. It perhaps reached its high point between 1890 and 1910, when cricket has at the height of its popularity in both countries, and featured such great players as Bart King, undoubtedly the best North American cricketer of all time. The series lapsed somewhat between the wars, but was resurrected as a regular feature in 1963, when the two teams played for the KA Auty trophy for the first time.
Other Canadian historical articles
When Bradman came to Canada
An Early Cricket Tour Of North America
The short history of Canadian cricket