Winnipeg, known for its friendly faces, frigid winters, and the iconic Red River, has been the birthplace of numerous trailblazers who have left an indelible mark on the world stage.
You’ll be amazed at the diverse array of talent that has emerged from our tight-knit community.
From award-winning actors to celebrated musicians, and political trailblazers to sporting legends, Winnipeg has been the incubator of dreams for these luminaries.
Join me as we uncover the stories behind the faces you may have seen on the big screen, heard on the radio, or read about in history books.
1. Anna Paquin
Anna Helene Paquin, a renowned actor born in Winnipeg on July 24, 1982, boasts a diverse heritage that weaves together her Canadian roots and her mother’s New Zealand origins.
Her parents, Mary and Brian Paquin, embody this cross-cultural connection, with Mary hailing from New Zealand and working as an English teacher, while Brian, a physical education teacher, originally comes from Winnipeg.
Despite her Winnipeg birth, Anna’s familial journey led her to her mother’s hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, when she was just four years old.
This early relocation didn’t diminish her ties to Canada; in fact, her father’s Canadian roots and her birthplace always kept her connected to her Canadian heritage.
Anna’s childhood was marked by a vibrant array of activities, including gymnastics, ballet, swimming, and music training.
As she navigated her formative years, she pursued her education at institutions such as Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School, Hutt Intermediate School, and Wellington Girls’ College in New Zealand.
In 1993, she made a stunning debut in the entertainment industry as Flora McGrath in the romantic drama film “The Piano,” earning her the prestigious Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the remarkable age of 11.
This achievement made her the second-youngest Oscar winner in history.
As a child actress, she continued to impress, receiving Young Artist Award nominations for her roles in “Fly Away Home” (1996), “The Member of the Wedding” (1997), and “A Walk on the Moon” (1999).
She also earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for her appearance in Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” (2000).
Transitioning seamlessly into adulthood, Anna portrayed the iconic character Rogue in the 20th Century Fox X-Men franchise (2000–2014), earning a Saturn Award nomination for her performance in the first installment.
Her diverse film credits include “25th Hour” (2002), “Trick ‘r Treat” (2007), “Margaret” (2011), “The Good Dinosaur” (2015), and “The Irishman” (2019).
In addition to her successful film career, Anna graced the small screen as the lead, playing Sookie Stackhouse in the HBO vampire drama series “True Blood” (2008–2014).
Her outstanding performance in the series earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 2009, along with nominations for an additional Golden Globe Award, three Saturn Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2010.
Notably, her work on the television film “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” (2007) garnered nominations for a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
2. Terry Fox
Terrance Stanley Fox, known as Terry Fox, left an indelible mark on Canada as an esteemed athlete, humanitarian, and advocate for cancer research.
Terry’s athletic prowess was evident during his high school years at Port Coquitlam Senior Secondary in British Columbia, Canada. The school now bears his name, Terry Fox Secondary School, where he excelled in distance running and basketball.
His passion for sports continued at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, laying the foundation for a remarkable journey that would redefine the meaning of resilience and compassion.
In 1980, facing the adversity of cancer that led to the amputation of one of his legs, Terry embarked on a monumental cross-Canada run known as the Marathon of Hope.
His goal was twofold: to raise funds for cancer research and to heighten awareness about the disease. Over 143 days, covering an astonishing 5,373 kilometers, he captivated the nation’s spirit.
The Marathon of Hope may have concluded prematurely due to the relentless spread of Terry’s cancer, but its impact was enduring.
His legacy lives on through the annual Terry Fox Run in Winnipeg, initiated in 1981 and evolving into the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.
Remarkably, this event has garnered support from millions of participants in over 60 countries, raising over C$850 million as of September 2022.
Terry Fox’s contributions to society extend beyond fundraising.
Recognized as the youngest Companion of the Order of Canada, he was awarded the 1980 Lou Marsh Award for Canada’s top sportsman.
His influence led to his being named Canada’s Newsmaker of the Year in both 1980 and 1981 by The Canadian Press.
The nation hailed him as a hero, commemorating his legacy through various tributes, including buildings, statues, roads, and parks named in his honor.
The impact of funds raised through Terry Fox Runs has been substantial, supporting over 1,100 research projects in Canada.
Noteworthy achievements include advancements in global imaging technology, increased life expectancy for men with advanced-stage prostate cancer, and the discovery of a new mutation offering potential avenues for lymphoma treatments.
3. Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews, born in Winnipeg on April 29, 1988, is a highly regarded Canadian professional ice hockey player with deep roots in his hometown.
Growing up in south St. Vital, Winnipeg, Toews embarked on his hockey journey as a Dakota Lazer, playing at the Dakota Community Centre.
His father, Brian, a passionate ice hockey enthusiast, instilled the first spark of interest in the game in his sons. At the age of 3, Jonathan took to the ice and quickly developed confidence in skating, eventually transitioning to playing ice hockey within a few years.
Despite later moving to Chicago to join the Blackhawks, Toews maintains a strong connection to Winnipeg, where he is not only a celebrated sports figure but also a great ambassador for his sport and an exemplary role model for the youth.
His legacy in Winnipeg is immortalized at the Jonathan Toews Sportsplex at the Dakota Community Center.
Toews’ journey in ice hockey saw a pivotal moment when, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, he was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks as the third overall pick.
Nicknamed “Captain Serious,” he made a swift impact upon joining the Blackhawks in the 2007–2008 season, earning a nomination for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year.
The following season, he assumed the role of team captain, becoming the second-youngest captain in NHL history at the time, succeeding Sidney Crosby.
Playing a crucial role in the success of the Chicago Blackhawks, Toews led the team to three Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013, and 2015.
His exceptional performance during the 2010 playoffs earned him the prestigious Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player.
Notably, he became the youngest player to enter the Triple Gold Club after winning the Stanley Cup, solidifying his status as a hockey luminary.
Internationally, Toews has been a stalwart for Team Canada, securing gold medals in various competitions, including the 2005 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Championships, and the 2007 World Championships.
His prowess extended to the 2010 Winter Olympics, where he was recognized as the best forward, and the 2014 Winter Olympics.
In 2017, Toews was honored as one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to the sport.
His individual accolades include three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, and 2015), the Conn Smythe Trophy (2010), the Frank J. Selke Trophy (2013), and the Mark Messier Leadership Award (2015).
Over his remarkable 15-season NHL career, he amassed 883 points in 1067 games, shining in the playoffs with 119 points in 137 games.
Toews, having signed three contracts totaling $123,900,000, leaves an enduring impact on the ice, and his leadership qualities have solidified his legacy as one of the most accomplished players in the history of the sport.
4. Randy Bachman
Born on September 27, 1943, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Randy Bachman, or Randolph Charles Bachman, is a highly regarded Canadian guitarist, singer, and songwriter.
His parents, Karl (Charlie) Bachman and Anne (Nancy) Dobrinsky, provided the familial backdrop for his early life.
Randy’s musical odyssey commenced in Winnipeg, where, at the tender age of three, he clinched victory in a singing contest on CKY’s King of the Saddle program.
Demonstrating an early affinity for music, by the age of five, he had already delved into the world of classical music, studying the violin within the structured framework of the Royal Toronto Conservatory system.
However, Bachman’s formal violin education lasted until the age of 12, as he grew dissatisfied with the structured lessons.
He discovered that he possessed a unique ability — he couldn’t read music, but with his “phonographic memory,” he could play anything he heard once.
At age 15, a pivotal moment occurred when he witnessed Elvis Presley playing on Tommy Dorsey’s television show, inspiring him to pick up the guitar.
With the guidance of his cousin, Bachman learned three chords and started practicing on a modified Hawaiian Dobro.
Further shaping his skills, at age 16, Bachman met Lenny Breau, who taught him fingerpicking and introduced him to the music of Chet Atkins. This period marked a crucial phase in Bachman’s musical development.
Transitioning into his career, Bachman became a founding member of The Guess Who and later co-founded Bachman–Turner Overdrive.
His musical journey also included solo projects and collaborations with various bands such as Brave Belt, Union, and Ironhorse.
Alongside his performance career, Bachman became a national radio personality on CBC Radio, hosting the weekly music show, Vinyl Tap.
His significant contributions to the music industry were recognized in 2016 when he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.
Bachman’s legacy extends beyond accolades, with over 120 platinum, gold, and silver album/singles awards from around the world.
The founder of two iconic rock bands, The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, he holds the rare achievement of securing the #1 spot on radio playlists in over 20 countries with his songwriting.
Overall, Bachman’s total record sales exceed an impressive 40 million albums and singles.
5. Burton Cummings
Burton Lorne Cummings, a renowned Canadian musician, was born in Winnipeg on December 31, 1947, to parents Burton Cummings and Anne Dobrinsky.
Raised in Winnipeg by his mother and maternal grandparents, Cummings faced the absence of his father, who had left the family during his infancy.
Despite this challenge, he attended St. John’s High School in Winnipeg, but at the age of 17, Cummings decided to drop out and embark on a music career. In recognition of his later achievements, the school awarded him an honorary diploma in 2010.
In 1964, Cummings took a significant step in his musical journey by joining a local R&B band, the Deverons, showcasing his talent on piano and vocals.
The Deverons gained local recognition by releasing two singles in Winnipeg.
Subsequently, Cummings, at the age of 18, transitioned to another regionally successful band, Chad Allan & The Expressions, filling the vacancy left by departed keyboardist Bob Ashley in early 1966.
Cummings also rose to prominence as the lead singer of The Guess Who, a position he held during the band’s peak success from 1965 to 1975.
Teaming up with guitarist Randy Bachman, Cummings emerged as a primary songwriter. Their collaborative efforts led to the release of the band’s first album, “It’s Time,” in the summer of 1966.
The turning point came with the international success of their 1970 album, “American Woman,” making The Guess Who the first Canadian band to claim a number-one single in the United States.
Following Bachman’s departure, Cummings continued to lead The Guess Who, steering the band through several more triumphs with internationally acclaimed albums.
As a solo artist, he achieved further success with albums like ‘Stand Tall,’ ‘My Own Way to Rock,’ and ‘Fine State of Affairs’ during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Cummings’ impact on the Canadian music scene has earned him prestigious accolades. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Recognized as one of the most influential performers in Canadian rock music, Cummings has also been honored as an officer of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba.
In Winnipeg, both the Burton Cummings Theatre and the Burton Cummings Community Centre stand as tributes to his enduring legacy.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Cummings has garnered numerous awards, including five RPM Awards, six Juno Awards, 22 SOCAN Awards, three BMI America Awards, and a Genie Award.
6. Daniel Gillies
Daniel Gillies, a distinguished Canadian actor, entered the world on March 14, 1976, in Winnipeg.
Raised in a family deeply rooted in medicine, with his father serving as a pediatrician and his mother as a nurse, Gillies also boasts a notable lineage, being the great-great-great-grandson of the pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillies.
Despite the prevailing medical influence in his family, Gillies found his calling in the world of entertainment at a young age. The trajectory of his life took a turn when his family returned to their native New Zealand when he was just five years old.
Settling in, Gillies goes on a journey to nurture his passion for acting.
Joining the Auckland Theatre Company during his youth, he became a prominent figure in their productions, eventually securing a lead role in the acclaimed New Zealand drama series ‘Street Legal.’
While Winnipeg marked his place of birth, Gillies’ formative years and education unfolded predominantly in New Zealand. This unique blend of Canadian roots and Kiwi upbringing contributes to his international allure.
Throughout his career, Gillies proudly represented Winnipeg on the global stage, showcasing the diversity of his identity within the realms of international acting.
Before landing lead roles in television series, he made notable guest appearances on shows such as Masters of Horror, NCIS, and True Blood.
In 2010, Gillies secured a pivotal role as Elijah Mikaelson in the hit CW drama series The Vampire Diaries. This character’s popularity led to a lead role in the successful spin-off, The Originals, which premiered in 2013.
An interesting challenge arose for the network when Gillies, already under contract for The Vampire Diaries, was cast as Dr. Joel Goran in the supernatural series Saving Hope. Despite the potential conflict, Gillies successfully managed both roles.
Further showcasing his talents, Gillies ventured into filmmaking with the 2012 film Broken Kingdom, in which he wrote, directed, and starred alongside his then-wife, Rachael Leigh Cook.
Subsequently, he portrayed Mark Monroe in the Netflix romantic drama series Virgin River from 2019 to 2022, spanning four seasons. In 2022, he joined the second season of the ABC series The Newsreader as Charlie Tate.
7. Nia Vardalos
Born in Winnipeg on September 24, 1962, Antonia Eugenia Vardalos, widely recognized as Nia Vardalos, stands as a celebrated Canadian actress, screenwriter, and producer.
Her roots trace back to Greek Canadian heritage, with her mother, Doreen Christakos, serving as a bookkeeper and homemaker, and her father, Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, making his mark as a land developer.
Growing up, Nia attended St. George School and later continued her education at Shaftesbury High School in Winnipeg.
It was during her formative years that her passion for acting took root, leading her to actively engage with the local theater scene, particularly at the esteemed Rainbow Stage.
In the early 1990s, Vardalos embarked on her career as a TV actress, taking on minor roles in shows like ‘Boy Meets World’ and ‘Two Guys and a Girl.’
However, her breakthrough came with the iconic film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” where she portrayed a woman navigating the complexities of love.
The movie achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success.
It earned Vardalos an Academy Award Nomination for Best Writing, a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and a Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination.
This sleeper hit quickly soared to become one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time and the leading romantic comedy in history.
Expanding her creative repertoire, Vardalos hosted Saturday Night Live in the fall of 2002. Her next venture was the 2004 film “Connie and Carla,” in which she not only starred but also wrote, sang, and danced.
In 2009, she made her directorial debut with the independent feature “I Hate Valentine’s Day.”
8. Ashleigh Banfield
Born in Winnipeg on December 29, 1967, to parents John Alexander Banfield and Suzanne Elizabeth Holland, Ashleigh Dennistoun Banfield has carved out a distinguished career as a Canadian-American journalist.
Her educational journey took her through Balmoral Hall School, a private university preparatory institution in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she concluded her studies in 1985.
Following this, Banfield pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and French at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, graduating in 1988.
She continued her academic pursuits in French at the University of British Columbia, graduating in 1992.
Banfield embarked on her journalistic career in 1988, starting at CJBN-TV in Kenora, Ontario, and later that year at CKY-TV in Winnipeg. From 1989 to 1992, she held the role of weekend news anchor at CFRN-TV in Edmonton.
Her journey continued at CICT-TV in Calgary, where she served as a producer from 1992 to 1993 and later as an evening news anchor and business correspondent from 1993 to 1995.
Notably, Banfield won two Iris Awards in 1994 for Best News Documentary and Best of Festival.
In the early 2000s, MSNBC recognized her talent, hiring her after she received an Emmy for reporting at KDFW-TV. She hosted MSNBC Investigates, worked at NBC News, and co-hosted HomePage.
On September 11, 2001, Banfield reported from Manhattan during the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack, earning a promotion to produce a new program, A Region in Conflict.
Banfield’s journey continued with roles such as hosting Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield and Early Start on CNN. Currently, she hosts Banfield on the NewsNation network, showcasing her versatility.
Additionally, she served as the host of A+E’s prime-time series, “Live Rescue,” and anchored “Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield” on HLN.
9. Max Domi
Maxwell John Domi, the accomplished Canadian professional ice hockey player, entered the world on March 2, 1995, in Winnipeg.
He is the son of Leanne and Tie Domi. Notably, Tie Domi, his father, was a distinguished figure in professional ice hockey and happened to be a player for the Winnipeg Jets at the time of Max’s birth.
Despite his Winnipeg origins, Max Domi’s early years unfolded outside the city due to his father’s career, shaping a unique childhood marked by the nomadic lifestyle associated with professional sports.
Amidst this backdrop, he developed into a promising talent, inheriting the athletic prowess that ran in his family.
His talent caught the attention of the Arizona Coyotes, who selected him 12th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Domi quickly adapted to the NHL, showcasing his skills and forming a dynamic partnership with Anthony Duclair, leading to the duo being affectionately dubbed “The Killer D’s.”
His NHL debut against the Los Angeles Kings on October 9, 2015, marked the beginning of a remarkable journey. In that game, Domi not only recorded his first career assist but also scored his debut NHL goal, an impressive start against Jonathan Quick.
A pivotal moment in his career came on January 12, 2016, when Domi achieved a significant milestone by recording his first NHL hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers.
This accomplishment highlighted his scoring prowess and solidified his presence in the league.
Domi’s NHL journey included stints with the Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Dallas Stars. Eventually, he landed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Beyond his NHL exploits, Domi proudly represented Canada on the international stage.
He played a crucial role in the Canadian team’s gold medal victory at the 2015 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, where he was not only recognized as the Best Forward but also earned a spot on the All-Star Team.
Throughout his career, Domi has garnered several awards and honors, showcasing his commitment and excellence.
These include the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal, OHL Champion in the 2013–2014 season, OHL Third All-Star Team recognition in 2014–2015, and the OHL Commitment Award, exemplified by the Mickey Renaud Captains Trophy.
Max Domi continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of professional ice hockey, leaving an indelible mark on the sport.
10. Cindy Klassen
Cindy Klassen, a celebrated Canadian speed skater, was born on August 12, 1979, in Winnipeg, where both her parents also hail from.
Growing up, Klassen attended St. George School and Shaftesbury High School, and her early interest in skating was sparked at the age of two when her father gifted her a makeshift hockey stick and a pair of skates.
Although Klassen initially explored various sports such as volleyball, basketball, rugby, badminton, and lacrosse during her formative years, she eventually found her passion in hockey.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, as women’s hockey emerged as an organized sport, Klassen played in AA and AAA boys’ leagues.
However, when the International Olympic Committee announced plans to make women’s hockey an official Olympic sport, Klassen, unfortunately, missed the chance to secure a spot on the team.
Undeterred, she continued refining her hockey skills while concurrently taking up speed skating to enhance her overall athletic abilities.
In 1999, just a year after venturing into speed skating, Klassen qualified for the Canada Winter Games.
This marked the beginning of a remarkable journey that led to her earning a spot on the Junior National Team and excelling in international competitions, particularly in the 1000 m category.
Despite transitioning to the United States for her speed skating career, Klassen’s roots remained firmly planted in Winnipeg.
She became a prominent figure in her sport, embodying excellence and serving as an inspiring role model for youth. Her legacy is honored at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex in Winnipeg.
Embracing speed skating proved to be a pivotal moment in Klassen’s career. Her natural talent catapulted her to becoming a six-time Olympic medalist, with one gold, two silver, and three bronze medals.
Notably, at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, Klassen made history as the only Canadian Olympian to secure five medals in a single Olympic Games. She also became the first female speed skater to achieve this remarkable feat.
Klassen’s achievements extended beyond the Olympics, encompassing world records in the 3000m, 1500m, and 5000m categories, as well as leadership in the Adelskalender, the all-time world ranking for speed skating.
In 2003, she broke a 27-year Canadian drought by winning the overall title at the World Speed Skating Championships.
Her contributions to the sport earned her numerous awards, including the Lou Marsh Trophy in 2006, recognizing her as Canada’s best athlete of the year.
The Order of Manitoba, the Oscar Mathisen Award, and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award further underscored her exceptional career.
Speed Skating Canada consistently acknowledged her as the Female Skater of the Year for long-track speed skating from 2003 to 2007.
Cindy Klassen’s impact on Canadian sports history is indelible, culminating in her being featured in a Canadian quarter in 2010 as part of the Olympic Memories editions.
Her legacy is defined by setting six world records and winning a total of 115 international medals, solidifying her status as a legendary figure in Canadian sports history.