Perhaps it was appropriate that in Ontario, the first game of soccer, as we know it today, was played in Toronto between teams representing the Carlton Cricket Club and the Toronto Lacrosse Club. The game was played in 1876, when cricket and lacrosse, along with baseball, dominated Canadian team sports in the summer. It was played on Parliament Street in Toronto, under the laws formed in 1863 in London, England. But the transition from the hybrid forms of football played in Ontario prior to that day and the game we play today was not immediate, and many years passed before Ontario soccer joined the mainstream.
One year after the game played in the Queen City, the first national soccer association, outside of the British Isles, was formed. It was known as the Dominion Football Association. Unfortunately, it was short-lived and had faded away by 1881.
The Western Football Association was founded by the great David Forsyth, one of the most influential men in the history of Canadian sport. It operated in all the towns and villages west of Berlin, places you rarely, if ever, hear of today in connection with soccer. But the WFA thrived in the summer months, and was to a certain extent based in schools.
While the WFA functioned west of Toronto, the Central Football Association operated in Toronto and just east of the city, while the Eastern Football Association was centred in Cornwall. All of this activity eventually led to the founding of the Ontario Association Football League in 1901, with David Forsyth as the guiding light. While it was known as the Association Football League (as were most soccer/football organizations formed in Canada in those days), the term “league” had nothing to do with a league as we think of it today. League in this sense referred to groups working together towards a common goal.
The founding of the OAFL saw the emergence of Galt Football Club as one of Canada’s first great teams. Known in some quarters as “The Galt Porridge Eating Invincibles,” Galt (today a part of the City of Cambridge), dominated the Ontario Cup in 1901, 1902 and 1903, and then won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1904 Olympic Games held in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1926, the first serious attempt to form a professional league came about, this in the midst of an internecine conflict between organized soccer and its clubs. At the bottom of it all was dissention between the clubs and the Toronto and District Soccer Association, which led to the formation of an organization known as the Canadian Football Association in opposition to organized soccer and running its own competitions.
The dispute lasted for two years, and was settled before the National League was formed in 1926. The National League, later the National Soccer League, stayed around until the 1990s. In its early years, it was dominated by teams such as Toronto Ulster United, Toronto Scottish, Montreal Carsteel, Montreal CNR, Hamilton City and Hamilton Thistles.
The Ontario Football Association and Ontario soccer associations carried on as best they could through the Dirty 30s, but the Dominion of Canada Football Association, in financial trouble, reverted to having mail votes instead of an annual meeting, and the DCFA was, to all intents and purposes, run by Sam Davidson out of his home in Winnipeg. The troubled times were brought to an end by an even greater disaster, World War Two, which ended an era, and changed Canadian soccer forever. During the years of World War Two, the DCFA and the OFA closed down, and the Ontario Football Association was not to be back in business again for ten years, by which time a generation had passed, and soccer had virtually to begin again from square one.