Fans flock to Punjabi voices of Hockey Night

Hockey isn’t just a North American and European sport – it’s truly global.

And in a nation such as Canada which embraces multiculturalism, it appeals to a cornucopia of ethnic groups.

To whit: the growing popularity of CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC) Punjabi and its hosts, play-by-play announcer Harnarayan Singh and colour commentators Bhola Singh Chauhan and Inderpreet Cumo.

During the National Hockey League season, they call Saturday night doubleheaders involving the Canadian teams, and during the post-season, they follow one series per round all the way to the Stanley Cup final, Singh explained.

The trio was at Preston GM on the Langley Bypass on Sunday afternoon. For more than three hours, they sat behind the HNIC desk, signing autographs and visiting with their legion of fans.

The 29-year-old Singh is in his seventh season calling games with CBC’s HNIC Punjabi and brings a familiar voice to Canada’s South Asian community every Saturday night.

As a visible minority youngster growing up in Southern Alberta, Singh was able to use his love of hockey to connect with other classmates, he told the Langley Advance.

“It really broke the ice with them,” he said. “When I reflect back on it, I became very obsessive-compulsive with the game of hockey.”

Outside of his duties with CBC, Singh enjoys playing tabla and harmonium, which he has performed across Canada, the U.S., and India.

Cumo, 32, brings a vast knowledge of hockey to his role with CBC and counts calling the 2012 Stanley Cup final alongside Singh and Chauhan as the highlight of his career, to date.

“I just love the game,” Cumo said. “Growing up in Canada that’s what you always see, what you always talk about. It’s such a great game, and… with us [broadcasting games] in Punjabi, it just opens up the borders that much more. The game’s that great, that it should be that open for all cultures and all languages.”

Chauhan, 47, is not only an analyst, he co-hosts the weekly HNIC Punjabi podcast.

He also provides play-by-play and analysis for Canadian kabaddi tournament matches, hosts various Punjabi radio shows, and writes for numerous Punjabi newspapers around the world.

He said hockey continues to gain popularity amongst Indo-Canadians.

“We are in our seventh season and it’s growing year in and year out,” he said. “So it’s growing very fast.”

While fans are found across the country, the most popular teams amongst Indo-Canadians are the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks, in Singh’s opinion.

“Just based on demographics and the population of the South Asian communities, there,” he said.

Asked what teams they lean towards, the three weren’t biting. They remain neutral.

“Growing up we all did [have our favourite teams] but of course now we’re totally unbiased,” Singh said. “The Canadian teams are all who we’d like to see, be successful.”

“It’s fun calling all Canadian [teams’] games, especially with the success that the Canadian markets are having,” Cumo added. 

All three believe their job continues to be a learning process.

“For all of us, the terminology we’re using, how comfortable we are… it’s been a lot of fun and I really see that all of us are gradually improving a lot,” Singh said.

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