I just got back from visiting my in-laws in Winnipeg. This statement is usually met with, "Why would anyone live in Winnipeg?" or more commonly "Ummm, where's Winnipeg?" (Due north of Fargo, North Dakota in the Canadian province of Manitoba).
(Ed. Note - Even if you don't watch this four-minute video, please at least hit play to hear this post's accompanying soundtrack).
Despite an intolerable climate and bleak landscape, Winnipeg is strangely compelling. Here's why:
1. I was there this year during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I expected nothing short of a Super Bowl party on New years Eve while the Molsons runneth over to celebrate this blessed event. Instead, I went to Game 6 of the American Hockey League's (AHL) Calder Cup, in which, the hometown Manitoba Moose lost 4-1 to perennial champs, the Hershey Bears (that's Hershey, Pennsylvania). The sold out crowd at the MTS Centre came out to support their second rate team while hockey's biggest show was taking place at that same exact time on television screens everywhere. Everywhere but the MTS Centre. So while the live, albeit mediocre hockey game took place right before our eyes, a crowd of 15,003, mostly clad in Jets jerseys (the NHL franchise that left Winnipeg in 1996 to become the Phoenix coyotes), transfixed their collective gaze on handheld communication devices, awaiting updates from Joe Louis arena.
2. Many notable talents have come out of Winnipeg. Most notably Neil Young. Which alone, is pretty notable. The town also gave birth to the Guess Who, which later spawned, BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive), First-Blood-shirt-shirking-actress, Anna Paquin, art-house filmmaker, Guy Madden, Lilith Fair-ian singer/songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, Let's Make a Deal host, Monty Hall, and the Disney character's namesake, Winnie the Pooh.
3. There's a Canadian television show called "Less Than Kind" about a dysfunctional Jewish family in Winnipeg that operates a driving school. It's basically the Canadian version of "Arrested Development." But the city plays an integral role in the story. The story was written by the uncle of my wife's childhood friend, who taught everyone how to drive and smoke a cigarette at the same time. Coincidentally, we spent the weekend hanging out with my in-law's neighbor, who also happens to star in this show, filmed on location. So we watched. It was great. Really, it was.
4. I learned this weekend, that "According to Environment Canada, Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world with a population of over 600,000." IN THE WORLD!! The city's record low reached -57 degrees. Fahrenheit.
5. Winnipeg is the Slurpee capitol of the word, as my wife often reminds me. It's also the Bingo capitol of Canada, which my wife does not know. I've enjoyed both on past visits.
So what am I getting at with all this useless Winnipeg trivia, and why should you care?
It's nice to see people take so much pride in a town that could easily be written off.
It's nice to know the local celebrities, and even have a connection to them.
It's a nice place to live. But I wouldn't want to visit.