To say that the sport of hockey is very significant in Canada is a gigantic understatement. This country is the epicentre of hockey as a sport. Hockey is a fabric of Canadian culture. Canadians live and breathe what happens on the ice. Along with that uniqueness is our country’s peaceful, cultural mosaic, which is an example to other nations in the world. When you put our diversity and our sport together, you get CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi! Nothing spells multiculturalism more than having Canada’s sport broadcast in my mother language.
Sports can have such an impact on an individual life, but they can also be significant to entire communities. Sports are universal in that they can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter their race, gender, caste, ethnicity or religion . . . and in Canada, what better way to bridge the gap between cultures than by watching or playing a game of hockey together?
Four seasons ago, a very special and significant event took place for Canada’s South Asian communities. Being the fourth most spoken language in Canada, CBC Sports decided to try something new by broadcasting Hockey Night in Canada telecasts in Punjabi. The show was an immediate hit and has received media attention not only across Canada but also overseas in India. After being on The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulous, on The National, on the front page of NHL.com, in Macleans magazine and in many other major media outlets, HNIC’s Punjabi edition is also now proving to help grow the sport in ways which were never before possible.
It seems as if South Asians have embraced the sport of ice hockey in Canada and there are indications of how very popular hockey has become within the community. We’re hearing so many stories about how the broadcast has connected generations. Kids, their parents and grandparents are now bonding through the game of hockey whereas, prior to the Punjabi broadcast, immigrant grandparents didn’t understand the game and had no other means to connect to their Canadian-born grandchildren. We’ve also heard stories from new immigrants who tell us they are finally able to participate in conversations with their colleagues at work when everyone talks about last night’s game. Somehow, having hockey broadcast in Punjabi is making the South Asian community feel more connected as Canadians. The impact of the broadcast cannot be overstated.
Personally, I’ve always thought of Hockey Night in Canada as an institution in this country and being a part of the show is definitely a dream come true. My own great-grandfather, Chanda Singh, came to Canada in 1907. From the stories of hardship he passed on from living here over 100 years ago, I’m fairly certain he would be amazed and happy to learn that Canada’s most iconic sport is being broadcast in his mother tongue.
- Harnarayan Singh, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Commentator, CBC