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In 2016, Harnarayan Singh made a reputation for himself in the Canadian hockey community with his animated, exaggerated analysis of Pittsburgh Penguins player Nick Bonino's playoff goal against the Washington Capitals. His performance has been remarkable. Singh was the first individual to call NHL games in Punjabi and the first Sikh to participate in an English-language NHL broadcast.

In his new autobiography, One Game at a Time: My Journey from Small-Town Alberta to Hockey's Largest Stage, he talks about his transformation from a hockey fanatic as a boy to an actual NHL analyst. 

Life in Alberta in 1980s

Singh says that as a Sikh, he was the centre of curiosity. He used to wear a steel bracelet and a turban. He also shared that during his childhood, he spoke a different language at home and listened to different music. 

He said, “ So when I was growing up there, for me to find commonality between my classmates and I, it would have taken something pretty drastic. My passion and obsession for hockey, when I reflect back, that's what really helped me create a rapport and friendship with classmates and teachers. And I would actually say that my entire experience growing up as such a patriotic Canadian would have been totally and completely different had it not been for the game of hockey.”

How his book describes the history of the Sikh community in Canada

Singh holds a great deal of respect for his parents, their generation, and previous generations because they had persevered through a great deal during their lives. They had no choice but to suffer through that difficult moment. They were forced to deal with rampant bigotry and struggle to gain access to desirable possibilities.

According to what he has discovered, his great-grandfather immigrated to Canada in the year 1907. For a young Canadian like him, he thought that was a revolutionary idea. He claimed that whenever he was exposed to racist remarks, he was always prepared with a response that he could provide to the person making the comments.

Obstacles he faced 

What you want to be when you grow up is a question that is frequently posed to children. And if you say you're a hockey commentator and you're wearing a turban while it's the 1980s or the 1990s, you can receive a response of laughter instead of immediate encouragement from people. And Singh said that he did get that feedback from other experts, some professors, and even from individuals working for the CBC.

That was a cautionary story from their end since they didn't want him to be disappointed and encouraged him to pursue something they thought he had a chance at. He said that he doesn't blame them as not everyone understood it. 

Tale of Inclusion 

It has previously taken athletes like Evander Kane and Matt Dumba from the Hockey Diversity Alliance. It has been their battle to fight. But Singh believes that while this dialogue is taking place, more and more hockey players are comprehending and realising that this is not just a fight for people of colour. This is a matter of human rights. He believes the NHL is taking this seriously, and it's sometimes better to be late than never.

Despite facing challenges related to racism and discrimination, Sikh players have made significant contributions to the game and have inspired others to pursue their passion for hockey. Through their dedication and hard work, players like Harnarayan Singh have helped to break down cultural barriers and promote diversity in the sport. 

 

*Based on an interview on CBC Radio, on 22nd September 2020

 

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