Winnipeg is Beautiful, No Matter What 21 NHLers Say

I felt compelled to comment on a recent ESPN’s NHL Player Confidential article that announced that Winnipeg was named as the NHL players’ most-dreaded city to visit. “Most-dreaded city” are pretty harsh words. Why ESPN would take that angle to essentially demote NHL hockey cities with that specific poll question is unclear. But if you crunch the numbers, there were only 21 NHL players that voted for Winnipeg in their poll…less impactful when you look at it that way. But sensationalism sells and quotes like these helped bolster the hate:

“It’s just dirty – you walk around the city and feel like you need to wash your face after you go outside. So nothing about it is very exciting.”

“Winnipeg is just depressing. You don’t even want to leave the hotel to get a cup of coffee.”

I currently live in Vancouver but lived in Winnipeg for the first 6 years of my life plus one year during my college years and now I travel there a few times a year to visit family. Does that make me an expert of Winnipeg. No, it does not. But do I know a bit about this city where I can speak from experience? I would like to think so, and so I shall.

To a Canadian growing up on the prairies, hockey is synonymous with winter and the cold. Heck, I grew up as a hockey sister and cannot grasp the fact that a hockey player would ever complain about the cold because the cold meant winter and winter meant hockey. Yes, Winnipeg is cold in the winter. Period. However, I would ask these polled NHL players, have you walked down a street in the Crescentwood neighbourhood of Winnipeg in the middle of a winter night, as the snow sparkles like a million diamonds on the ground and the night sky shines so bright it lights up the streets? Backyards flooded to create hockey rinks with team benches for kids to play out their NHL dreams. Neighbours bundled up warm in Canada Goose jackets as they exchange pleasantries before heading out to the unique winter pop-up restaurant located on a frozen river in the city, featuring world-class chefs. Have you experienced that Winnipeg?

Two people walking down a residential street lined with character houses during a beautiful winter evening in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
A beautiful winter evening in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Did you ever attempt to leave your downtown hotel and explore Winnipeg instead of just sitting in your lonely hotel room, coffee-less? If you grabbed your skates and explored The Forks where a skating trail is created on the river each winter, you could see the winter fun and joy that Winnipeggers embrace on those winter days. And perhaps engaging with hockey and skating fans under a sunny winter sky would give you a clearly needed endorphin boost.

Did you ever stick around for a Winnipeg summer? Hot and humid like a Mexican holiday one often craves. Kids playing street hockey and siblings selling lemonade by the curb as parents sit in their yards visiting with neighbours before heading out to one of the many summer festivals happening throughout the city. Winnipeg actually has four seasons to enjoy, not just cold winters.

As for Winnipeg being dirty, it is unclear what they meant by that. Sure, roads with snow and gravel can make the city roads look dirty. All winter cities can look dirty like that. But there is nothing dirty about the pure white blanket of freshly fallen snow that covers the city during the winter months. And the crisp, clean air feels nothing but refreshing, if a little numbing on those cold days, but never dirty. I have walked the streets of Rome in the summer and truly felt dirty with grime but there was still beauty in that historical city. I have also walked the streets of Mexico City with trash thrown along sidewalks but the city is also beautiful, cultural and lively with some of the best food I have ever had. A “dirty” city can still be magical.

As an avid traveller who loves exploring cities, I’ve learned that it is the approach one takes when exploring a city that will affect one’s view of it. If you have an open willingness to explore the personality of a city, you will find its beauty. It is not hard to find if you are open to seeing it.

My perspective is that these NHL players have never really taken the time to get to know Winnipeg or the other cities listed in this poll. Therefore, their opinions are weightless in my mind and hopefully yours too because there is beauty in every city, even Winnipeg.

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