Four Amazing Canadians that Make us Proud
Not all symbols of national greatness come in the form of the tallest skyscraper, a country’s economic standing or its position in global rankings. Sometimes national greatness is achieved by something as small as one individual. Canada has many reasons to be proud of its celebrities, and here are just a few of the most noteworthy experts in their fields who have filled us with pride by their global achievements.
One can’t think of Saturday Night Live without thinking of Ottawa native Dan Aykroyd. Born and raised in the Canadian capital, his father was the policy advisor to the longest running Prime Minister Canada has ever had, Pierre Trudeau.
Dan’s early dreams of becoming a priest changed, luckily for us, to becoming a comedian when he dropped out of college and eventually joined the Second City troupe in both Toronto and Chicago.
He has appeared in over 75 films and 22 television shows, not including Saturday Night Live. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Driving Miss Daisy, won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for another two for his work in Saturday Night Live. During the years Aykroyd was on the show, the late night comedy sketch series saw it’s highest ratings ever; 4 out of every 10 television sets that were turned on late Saturday night were tuned into the show. Ratings such as these have not been seen since that golden age.
Dan continues to support Canadian productions such as fellow Ottawa actor and writer Peter Michael Dillon, who wrote the short film The Game Changer. Aykroyd is proud to be a Canadian and his achievements are certainly something for Canadians to be proud of. The Ghostbusters and Blues Brothers legacy is strong and he’s certainly proven his worth in dramas too.
A Toronto native, Daniel Negreanu has become a force to be reckoned with within the world of professional poker. Daniel began playing in the gambling halls of Toronto and quickly became skilled at reading the table, winning against much more experienced players.
Always challenged by competition, Daniel set his sights on Las Vegas. He didn’t win big right away; in fact, he lost his entire bankroll in Vegas and returned to Toronto for a time to rebuild his capital. But, he was unwilling to quit and he worked hard to improve his game. Obviously, it paid off.
Daniel has since gone on to win six World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour championship titles. He was the youngest player ever to win a WSOP bracelet. He has also won player of the year several times in both tournaments. He is happy to do interviews and is very friendly with his fans, making him an easy celebrity to love. As of 2016, his poker earnings exceeded $32,412,000, which places him as the top grossing professional poker player in the entire world.
According to RichestNetWorth.org, he is currently worth $50 million. Negreanu has written books, numerous articles, and has tutored amateur poker players online. His magnetic personality and stellar success garnered him his own documentary, Kid Poker, which was produced in 2015 by internet poker brand PokerStars to chronicle his rise to success. He is also a spokesperson for the same brand, often taking the time to practice his game on their servers. He loves the game and his easy-going attitude makes him a favourite amongst poker fans. He certainly shows no signs of slowing down, despite having already reached the top of the world.
While he may not be one of the top 25 people in the capital this year, Wayne Gretzky would definitely be named by many as one of the top 25 Canadians ever. The man who immortalized the words, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” began playing professional hockey right out of high school.
Gretzky played 20 seasons in the NHL for four different teams, beginning with the Edmonton Oilers in 1979. He led his Canadian team to four Stanley Cup Championships.
Over the next 20 years, he became the leading scorer in NHL history and he is the only player to score over 200 points in one season. During his career as a professional hockey player, he won nine Hart Trophies as Most Valuable Player, ten Art Ross Trophies for most points in one season, two Conn Smythe Trophies for MVP in the playoffs, and five Lester B Pearson Trophies for most outstanding player as judged by other players.
When he left the rink in 1999, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and also the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000. He went on to have part ownership and then become head coach for the Phoenix Coyotes. He also served as the Executive Director for the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics and was the final Olympic torchbearer in the 2010 games.
Gretzky has made appearances in over 60 films and numerous television shows, including hosting Saturday Night Live. He remains active in business and politics in the United States and Canada and will continue to be known as “The Great One” in Canada as long as he lives.
Toronto born and Ottawa raised Peter Jennings was also a college dropout, like Aykroyd. Far from hindering his success, at the age of 26 Jennings was hired on at ABC, becoming the youngest anchor the network had ever put on air.
Pitted against the likes of Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley, Jennings chose to leave the position and instead set up the network’s bureau in Beirut, making ABC the first to have a news bureau in the Arab world. As his expertise on the Middle East grew, he produced several documentaries on the area’s leaders, including one that won him his first of two Peabody Awards. He continued to be a groundbreaking correspondent and anchor for the next 30 years.
Peter Jennings earned a multitude of awards for his honest and in-depth reporting, including 16 Emmys and two lifetime achievement awards, The Paul White Award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association and the Edward R. Murrow Award from Washington State University.
Eight days before his passing in 2005, he was informed he was to be inducted into the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian award. While he spent many years in the United States, his love for Canada never waned and, after his death, his ashes were scattered at his Quebec farm. Truly, a Canadian legend.
Canada has produced some of the most talented people the world knows today, those mentioned above and more; musicians Alanis Morrisette, Neil Young and Celine Dion, director James Cameron, actors William Shatner, Jim Carrey and Michael J. Fox, and countless scientists working for the betterment of Canada and the world. Canadians do not boast or brag loudly, but rather are quietly proud of their own. And clearly, we do have a great deal to be proud of.