You might already be familiar with hockey play-by-play announcer Harnarayan Singh’s work. His goal call for Nick Bonino’s winner in Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs went viral in hockey spheres, inspiring the Penguins to their fourth championship and inspiring everyone else to think, “Hold up, they broadcast hockey in Punjabi??!”
Hockey Night In Canada: Punjabi Edition was on the air for eight years before “Bonino Bonino Bonino,” and in 2019 it’s still going strong. Depending on the measure, Punjabi is the third- or fourth- most spoken language in Canada, so it makes sense that a dedicated hockey broadcast would exist in that language. But it wouldn’t exist at all if Singh didn’t pay for his own flights from Calgary to Toronto for years to keep the dream alive. The show has had an undeniably positive impact on the Punjabi community in Canada, helping immigrants connect with their new countrymen—or even their own Canada-born kids—through the most quintessentially Canadian sport.
More importantly, it has helped Punjabi Canadians fit hockey into their own definitions of “Canadianness” while retaining their roots, in their own language. Perhaps no one is a better example of this nation-building at work than Harnarayan himself, a Canadian-born and raised hockey nut from a small prairie town, who also happens to be a devout Sikh with a golden voice and a real talent for the tabla and harmonium.
Thanks to the rising tide of right-wing populism around the globe, the question of Who Gets To Be Canadian or Who Gets To Be American or Who Gets To Be Whatever Nationality is increasingly explored in various ways in public discourse. There are nearly half a million Punjbai Sikhs among 1.9 million South Asians living in Canada, numbers that include the leader of one of its major political parties. It’s not Harnarayan’s—or any minority’s—job to change public perception about his community, but his rise to prominence could inspire other non-white Canadians to get out there, do what they love, and be seen.
Since the Bonino call, Harnarayan Singh has leveraged his viral fame into semi-regular appearances on English language broadcasts as a rink side reporter. Still, the goal for him remains full-time, English language play-by-play. He’s got the skills, the drive, and the résumé. On top of that, he is a genuinely gracious and humble dude. I’ll be rooting for him to get there.
Senior Producer: Kiran Chitanvis; Creative Producer: Anders Kapur; Animation/Graphics: Dan Ashwood