NHL's first Punjabi broadcaster talks childhood dreams, the Bonino call — and if the Oilers can get back on track

His dream of being a hockey broadcaster, like industry titans Ron MacLean and Bob Cole, began when he was a kid.

EDMONTON—When Harnarayan Singh made his debut calling NHL games 10 years ago, he became the first person to broadcast pro hockey in Punjabi and has helped introduce a whole new audience to the sport along the way.

On Thursday, Singh was alongside other prominent sports personalities to discuss barriers in hockey through their own personal stories during a hockey conference at the University of Alberta.

Singh told his tale to a packed auditorium.

His dream of being a hockey broadcaster, like industry titans Ron MacLean and Bob Cole, began when he was a kid. He would watch games with his family and provide play-by-play commentary, much to the chagrin of his family, who were living in Brooks, Alta.

The small town wasn’t exactly diverse and Singh knew going to school wearing his turban and silver bracelet everyday that kids looked at him differently.

Even though his dream never died while attending Mount Royal University broadcasting school and working part-time at a local radio station, people —even some of his professors — told him he’d never make it.

“When you turn on the TV, does anybody look like you?” He recalled a doctor once asking him.

Fast-forward to 2008 and Singh had landed a spot with CBC providing Punjabi commentary for NHL games on Hockey Night in Canada. He’s been broadcasting the Saturday night primetime spectacle in Punjabi ever since.

In 2016, he made his English-language broadcasting debut during a Calgary Flames-Toronto Maple Leafs game. Another highlight was one of his goal calls during the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs — a tally by the Penguins’ Nick Bonino — that went viral and skyrocketed him to online fame.

After his talk, Singh, who lives in Calgary, sat down with StarMetro for a Q and A. The questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Do you have to have a thick skin for what you do?

Yeah, and there’s different reasons for that. One is just because you’re different and you’re doing something new. in that sense, you’re fulfilling a position that is needed in the hockey world but you look so different doing it. You’re representing not just yourself, you’re representing your family, your community, your faith. Those are big things to have on your shoulders so when I’m standing there with a nervous excitement and hoping I do well, I’m hoping not just to pull it off for me, I’m hoping to pull it off for my colleagues and other aspiring students who are like me and wanting to make it.

I would say social media, sometimes if you start responding, it just becomes this vicious cycle. So you have to really pick and choose what are you going to respond to and try to understand where someone else is coming from and why they might be feeling that way. You know, I thought we made a lot of progress as a society but it seems like we still got a long way to go...

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