Did You Know: Notable People with Edmonton Connections

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These exceptional individuals were born in the region (unless noted otherwise) and their lives were shaped by their time and experiences in Edmonton. 

Actors

  • Paulina Alexis, a member of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation in central Alberta, is known for her roles in Reservation Dogs and Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
  • Tommy Chong is known for Cheech & Chong albums and movies, as well as playing the character Leo on That '70s Show.
  • Nathan Fillion, known for his leading roles on Firefly, Castle and The Rookie and the infamous Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion idea.
  • Michael J Fox is most known for playing Marty McFly in Back to the Future and Mike Flaherty in Spin City he's now an activist for Parkinson's disease since his diagnosis in the '90s. 
  • Jill Hennessy is best known for her roles on Law & Order and Crossing Jordan.
  • Leslie Nielsen had a career spanning 60 years, in more than 100 films and 150 television programs. 

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Leslie Neilson's high school yearbook black and white photo.
Leslie Nielsen attended McKay Avenue School and the Victoria School of Arts. Courtesy of Edmonton Public School Board Archives.

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Athletes

  • Born a Liberian refugee in Ghana, soccer phenom Alphonso Davies and his family settled in Edmonton when he was six years old. He first played organized soccer as part of the Free Footie program (now Free Play) and he is now on the Canadian men’s national team and plays professionally in Germany. 
  • Now retired, Stephanie Labbé made 85 appearances as goalkeeper on the Canada women's national soccer team, winning a bronze medal at 2016 Rio Olympics and a gold medal at 2020 Summer Olympics.
  • Hockey player Mark Messier played for the Oilers for 12 seasons, won five Stanley Cups and is considered one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time. 
  • Joey Moss, spent 34+ years as the Oilers and Elks locker room attendant known for his passion, positive attitude and incredible work ethic. 
  • Hockey player Dion Phaneuf is a three-time NHL All-Star, and he has represented Canada internationally five times. 
  • Hockey goaltender Shannon Szabados represented team Canada during three Olympics and was the first female player in several different tournaments and leagues.

Musicians & Singers

  • Ruth B started by singing songs on Vine and now has over 900 million overall streams. 
  • Tommy Banks was born in Calgary and grew up in Edmonton. He was the host, pianist, arranger, and conductor on The Tommy Banks Show and served as the Musical Director for many international events including the 1978 Commonwealth Games.
  • Cadence Weapon has recorded four albums, was Edmonton's Poet Laureate in 2009 and won Canada’s Polaris Music Prize in 2021. Read more about his 2022 memoir, Bedroom Rapper.
  • Originating in Edmonton, The Emeralds have recorded 29 albums, including the international hit The Bird Song, also known as the Chicken DanceRoyalty Records, which owns the copyright to the song, has licensed the track to Epic Games for use in its popular video game Fortnite.
  • After moving to Edmonton at 13-years-old, Robert Goulet spent his formative years here. He performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and was an announcer on CKUA before moving out east.
  • k.d. lang has won multiple Juno and Grammy awards for her musical performances, include the songs Constant Craving and Miss Chatelaine.
  • Jazz legend Big Miller settled in Edmonton in 1970. Miller was a major influence on the Edmonton jazz and blues community, and was the subject of the documentary Big and the Blues.
  • Judy Singh, Black-South Asian jazz musician, popular from the ‘50s to ‘70s.
  • Kreesha Turner’s hit Don't Call Me Baby became the No. 1 most played song (by a Canadian) on Canadian radio in 2008. (She’s now an online day trader, to boot.)

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The Emeralds playing at City Hall.
The Emeralds Show and Dance band have been playing together for decades, including this show at City Hall. Courtesy of The Emeralds.

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More

  • Businessman Greg Abel, studied chartered accounting at the U of A, he’s now in line to replace billionaire investor Warren Buffet as the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
  • Naturalist John Acorn is the host and creative force behind the popular TV series Acorn, the Nature Nut.
  • Metis filmmaker Gil Cardinal’s autobiographical documentary Foster Child received over 10 international film awards.
  • Author W. P. Kinsella known for his novel Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams.
  • Arthur Hiller, an alumni of Victoria School, directed Hollywood films, including the Oscar-nominated Love Story (1970), Silver Streak (1976), and Outrageous Fortune (1987). 
  • Author, publisher and activist Mel Hurtig was twice named Canadian Book Publisher of the Year and he conceived of and published two editions of the highly acclaimed Canadian Encyclopedia.
  • Originally from Carberry, Manitoba, Wop May and his family moved to Edmonton when he was 6-years-old. May was a flying ace in the First World War, credited with 13 victories, and was part of the dogfight in which the infamous Red Baron was gunned down. The short film Blind Ambition: The Story of Wop May was created about May’s life and accomplishments.
  • Max Ward was an aviation entrepreneur who founded and ran Wardair, a former privately run airline. 
  • Late, self-taught painter Matthew Wong is regarded as one of the brightest artists of his generation, and his paintings now fetch millions of dollars at auction. In 2016, he settled in Edmonton and lived the remainder of his life here.
  • Karen Spencer, Countess Spencer who is sister-in-law to Princess Diana. She is the founder and CEO of Whole Child International, that works to improve the quality of care for vulnerable children.

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