Sikh play-by-play announcer to call game between Flames and Leafs
Nov 30, 2016: Harnarayan Singh is set to make history once again Wednesday night.
Already the first person to call the play-by-play of NHL games in Punjabi, the 31-year-old will become the first Sikh to broadcast in English when he joins the crew covering the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs game at the Saddledome.
"Hockey is the fabric of Canadian culture, it brings people together," Singh told CBC News.
"For myself growing up in southern Alberta, it was the icebreaker between my classmates and I, and that's what makes Canada so special, the diversity is celebrated and to have a person like myself be in the hockey family, it just speaks to the multiculturalism that is so great."
Part of the Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi broadcast team since 2008 — covering games each Saturday night during the NHL season — Singh catapulted to fame during last year's Stanley Cup playoffs with an extended, boisterous call of an overtime goal by Pittsburgh Penguins centre Nick Bonino.
"My colleagues and I, we like to bring in the characteristics of the [South Asian] community. It's a very vibrant, loud community, they love their music and their food as well, so we incorporate those characteristics in the call … that's what that was about," he said.
But don't expect similar operatic treatment for a Mark Giordano or Sean Monahan tally on Wednesday.
"There are different elements in terms of Punjabi and English," said Singh.
"And tonight, my role on the English side is going to be different than the play-by-play. I'll be catering my strategy to that role, we're all excited for tonight and I just can't wait."
Lifelong fan of the game
Growing up in Brooks, Singh was an ardent hockey fan, of both the players and commentators. The game, he said, helped bridge cultural gaps.
"I think back to when my parents immigrated to Canada in the mid-'60s and the hardships they faced," he said.
"When you look at my own family heritage or my colleagues, what their families have had to go through to get to where we are now as a community, it's a night and day difference. Sometimes I refer back to the Canada Cups that were being played when [Wayne] Gretzky and [Mario] Lemieux were playing together, scoring those beautiful goals. The face of Canada has really changed from then to now, and now that we're having these opportunities come our way, it's really reflective of the beauty of this country."
Singh said he's been told the number of people from the South Asian community registering their kids in hockey is on the rise, a direct result of the success of Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi.
"It's helping grow the sport," he said.
"More people playing hockey, more people buying tickets, buying jerseys and participating in Canadian culture, so it's great."