The Provinces that Yield the Most Athletic Canadians

Emma Byrd by Emma Byrd Published: April 10, 2021

Canada is a large, beautiful country with provinces that are as big as many nations. There are six main regions from the Arctic North and the Canadian Shield, all the way to the St. Lawrence Lowlands and each have their own intrinsic landscapes. This along with the country hosting multiple Olympics and other huge sporting events has helped to create a legacy of inspiring sporting moments and great facilities. Here are the top provinces when it comes to producing the most athletic Canadians.

provinces that yield the most athletic canadians
Ontario Athletes

Number One - Ontario

In many ways, Ontario is the biggest beast when it comes to Canadian provinces. It's home to more than a third of the entire country's population, and only Quebec is larger geographically. So perhaps it's unsurprising that Ontario also contributes a large number of athletes to both Summer and Winter Olympic Games (the latter, of course, being where Canada especially shines).

Almost half of the athletic Canadians who made their way to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 came from Ontario (132 of 313). Canada was represented in 37 disciplines during those Games, but if Ontario had been a separate nation the number would still have been as high as 30.

More athletic Canadians went to the Winter Olympics of Pyeongchang in 2018 than had ever gone to the Winter Games before, with 225 athletes attending. Once again, Ontario was top dog of the provinces, with 68 athletes hailing from the province (just under a third of the total).

Ontario has lots of natural advantages when it comes to athletes. It's home to both the national capital, Ottawa, and Toronto, the biggest city in the country. As you might expect, the high population coupled with the national capital and very large provincial capital provides fertile ground for encouraging sporting excellence. Leading lights from Ontario include Olympic gold medallist and multiple World Champion figure skater Patrick Lewis Wai-Kuan Chan, multiple Olympic medal winner Penny Oleksiak (swimming), and multiple Olympic and World Champion figure skaters Scott Patrick Moir and Tessa Jane McCormick Virtue.

However important the Summer and Winter Olympics are, there are other athletic contests held rather more regularly, and Ontario plays a leading role in these as well with numerous basketball (the province is responsible for many of the number one draft picks in the NBA), soccer, ice hockey and football teams.

Talking of ice hockey, Ontario has spawned almost half of the Canadian players in the NHL. Arguably the most famous of which is number 99, Wayne Gretzky who held or shared 61 NHL records at the time of his retirement in 1999. He has received countless honours for his athleticism which includes winning the Hart Trophy 9 times, the Art Ross Trophy 10 times, the Lady Byng Trophy 4 times, and the Conn Smythe Trophy 2 times. Some of the best current players from the province include names like Steven Stamkos, Joe Thornton, Jordan Staal and Corey Perry to name a few.

One of the greatest ever athletes from the province is Russ Jackson, who began his CFL career as a defensive back before shifting to quarterback. He was named the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) on no fewer than three occasions. By coincidence, he also won three Grey Cups with the Ottawa Rough Riders and many consider him the finest CFL player there's ever been.

On the soccer pitch Dwayne De Rosario is one of Ontario's most successful players, with a quartet of MLS Cups to his name. He's also scored more goals for the national side than any other player, and stands at number five on the caps list.

British Columbia Athletes

British Columbia - Punching Above its Weight

British Columbia does not have the biggest city in the country, nor the national capital - not that this stops it from producing some of the best BC online casinos. But what it does have is a fantastic cold-weather environment that means it produces large number of winter athletes. In addition, pleasant summer weather and great training facilities make it a top destination for summer athletic Canadians from other provinces.

In the 2018 Winter Olympics Canada had 225 athletes competing, of which 63 (more than a quarter) had some connection, whether birth or training, to British Columbia. According to figures from the Canadian Sport Institute, the proportion of athletic Canadians competing in Winter Games (from the province) rose from 19% in 2014 to 28% in 2018. Given that only 13% of Canadians live in British Columbia that means the province is punching significantly above its weight on the sporting stage.

British Columbia scores highly when it comes to Summer Games too, with 68 of 313 athletes in Rio 2016 hailing from the province. Only the much more populous Ontario supplied more members of the Canadian Olympic team that year.

One of the highlights of the province, and one of the sources of world-class athletes for the country, is the notorious Red Mountain. Steep to an extent that some consider the ultimate challenge, and others consider to be downright dangerous, the Red Mountain is not for the faint of heart. Cliff drops and trees aplenty mean that if you make a mistake the consequences can be severe. But those who can master this daunting slope can go on to conquer the whole world. Nancy Greene is one such example. She grew up learning to ski at the infamous Red Mountain, and went on to become the 1968 Olympic gold medallist in the giant slalom.

Lui Passaglia was born in Vancouver and is widely considered to be the best player that the BC Lions have ever had. Perhaps unexpectedly, he achieved this as the kicker, and became the all-time record points scorer in gridiron (including the NFL).

Another great athletic Canadian from British Columbia is Christine Sinclair. Twice an Olympic bronze medallist, this captain of Canada's national soccer team is the world's leading goal scorer in soccer (both women and men) with 186 in international matches. At the time of writing, she's also the most capped player still on the pitch (with 296 appearances on the international stage).

Alberta Athletes

Alberta - and the Winter Olympics Legacy

The province of Alberta continues to benefit from the legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics, with venues built to stage those Games providing great training facilities for competitors ever since. Indeed, after the populous Ontario, Alberta contributes more members to the Canadian Winter Olympics team than any other province (54 in the 2018 Games).

This includes both the oldest male and female competitors (43 year old bobsledder Lascelles Brown and 51 year old curler Cheryl Bernard), who are both from or based in Calgary.

Although not quite as numerous, there are still a large number of athletic Canadians from Alberta who competed in the last Summer Games (Rio 2016), with 31 sportsmen making the trip to Brazil (just over half, 16, came from Calgary).

The Calgary Games of 1988 not only furnished the brick-and-mortar venues that would later serve as training facilities for the finest athletes in Canada, it also provided significant sporting memories that inspired Canadians and others around the world. Perhaps the most memorable was the Jamaican bobsled team making their debut, which would go on to inspire the film Cool Runnings. The heroic failure of British ski jumper Eddie the Eagle was another highlight. But the ultimate legacy of the games was to transform Canada into one of the most competitive nations in the Winter Olympics, coming 3rd in the 2018 Games behind only Norway and Germany.

A great Albertan athlete was Lanny King McDonald, an ice hockey player whose teams include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies, and Calgary Flames. His 16 year career involved more than 1,000 points scored in 1,100 games. To this day, McDonald holds the Flames' record for most goals in a season (66 in 1982 to 1983). Even in the latter stages of his career things went well. Entrusted with the captaincy of the Flames, this Albertan athlete repaid his team by leading them to Stanley Cup glory in the 1988-9 season.

Another of the province's most talented sportsmen was Michael Vernon, a professional hockey goaltender from Calgary whose career reached 19 seasons in the NHL for multiple teams (Calgary Flames, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, and Florida Panthers). Vernon's achievements include a brace of Stanley Cup wins (the Flames in 1989 and the Red Wings in 1997) and victories in over 300 NHL games. On the international stage Vernon represented Canada twice, winning the silver medal at the 1991 World Championship.

Born in Edmonton, Dave Fennell was a Canadian Football League player par excellence. He spent a decade playing for the Edmonton Eskimos, and was a key part of their stunning quintet of consecutive Grey Cup triumphs from 1978 to 1982. Fennell won numerous awards during his career, including being named the CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1978.

Quebec Athletes

Quebec - home of Gilles Villeneuve

Alberta isn't the only Canadian province to have hosted the Olympics, with Quebec hosting the 1976 Summer Games, the only time that the Summer Games have been held in Canada. The popularity of ice hockey has helped to make Quebec a particularly strong source of winter athletes, and in the 2018 Games 50 of Canada's team came from the province. Snowboarding is a strong point for Quebec, and in the Pyeongchang Olympics the two youngest Canadian competitors (both 16) were Eliot Grondin and Elizabeth Hosking from Quebec. In the 2018 Games, Quebec athletes won 12 of Canada's 29 medal haul and the same number (of 27) in the preceding Winter Games.

Quebec also contributes a very similar number of athletic Canadians to the Summer Olympics team, 54 coming from the province in 2016, third behind Ontario and British Columbia. This included the entirety of the seven-strong diving contingent.

The province is also the home of the world famous Canadian Grand Prix, today hosted at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Seasoned gearheads will have noted that the track is named after one of Quebec's most popular sporting icons, the acclaimed Gilles Villeneuve. Beginning his driving career racing snowmobiles in his native Quebec, Villeneueve went on to join the McLaren team in Formula 1 before joining the team every driver dreams of: Ferrari. He stayed there until his untimely death in 1982, and narrowly missed out on the 1979 title to team mate Jody Scheckter. His son, Jacques, went on to take the title in 1997 and is so far the first and only Canadian to win Formula One. Jacques was named Canada's Athlete of the Year and has won a number of accolades. In 2010 he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Myriam Bédard represented Canada at two Winter Olympics as a biathlete, and took the bronze medal in 1992. She also took a pair of gold medals at the World Championships held in Lillehammer in 1994, in the 7.5km sprint and 15km events.

Maurice Richard was born and bred in Montreal, and played for the Montreal Canadiens for 18 seasons. He achieved a number of career milestones, including becoming the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a single season, and the first to reach 500 career goals. This hockey pioneer was the 1947 most valuable player and thereby won the Hart Trophy. At the time of his retirement in 1960 he had scored 544 goals, a then record high. Maurice Richard won the Stanley Cup eight times, although on this score he was outdone by his brother Henri, who won it a record-breaking 11 times.

Georges St-Pierre hails from Saint-Isidore, and is considered by many to one of the finest mixed martial artists in history. St-Pierre fought in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions, and became champions in both within the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He defended his welterweight title on nine consecutive occasions.

Mario Lemieux, also known as Super Mario or The Magnificent One, spent well over a decade playing ice hockey for the Pittsburgh Penguins before becoming their owner in 1999. That shift into ownership makes him the only man to get his name on the Stanley Cup as both a player and owner. On the international stage, he represented Canada at the highest level, achieving Olympic Gold in 2002. His hockey awards include six Art Ross Trophies (as the NHL's leading points scorer) and thrice winning the Hart Trophy (as the NHL's most valuable player). All this is made even more impressive by the constant health problems that severely curtailed his playing time, including chronic back pain.

As we know here at, Canada's a fiercely competitive nation when it comes to sport which is just one reason why betting is so popular, and has produced some of the world's greatest athletes in a number of different disciplines. These days, the nation and its provinces are challenging to top Winter Olympics medal tables, and with the likes of Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec providing ever greater numbers of fantastic competitors it'd be no surprise to see the Canadian team leading the way in 2022.

About the Author
 Emma Byrd
Emma Byrd - News Editor

Emma Byrd is an experienced news editor who is responsible for creating and managing content for She ensures all content is always up-to-date, engaging, and accurate. She is detail-orientated, organized, and has excellent editing and writing skills. Emma has a unique ability to analyze news to determine the most important information to include in each article or review.

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