A Punjabi broadcast draws in new hockey fans

DAVID SAX

Harnarayan Singh and Bhola Chauhan sat at a desk in the CBC's studio last month, watching the first period of a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets on two televisions.

Dressed in a pinstriped suit with gold cuff links, a blue-and-white tie and a matching turban, Singh, a play-by-play announcer, called the end-to-end action in an animated stream of Punjabi, punctuated with English words like "linesman," "icing" and "face-off." Singh spoke at great volume as Toronto scored its first goal, crediting wing Joffrey Lupul for what translates to "picking up the wood," a traditional Punjabi battle cry akin to bringing the house down.

"Chak de phatte goooaaalll Joffrey Lupul! Torrronto Maple Putayyy!"

A few minutes later, Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn and Toronto's Colton Orr dropped their gloves and began pounding on each other, and Singh rose in his chair to animate each blow. As the players were led to the penalty box, Chauhan, an Indian-born draftsman, writer and taxi driver wearing a cream-colored turban, read a fighting poem he had written based on a Punjabi style of verse.

The guy who is winning has a punch like a lion, and takes over the fight. He hits like a sledgehammer. They're rivals, and he's hung the other out to dry, not letting him go.

The weekly Punjabi broadcast of "Hockey Night in Canada," as venerated an institution for Canadians as "Monday Night Football" is for Americans, is the only N.H.L. game called in a language other than English or French.

The broadcast marries Canada's national pastime with the sounds and flavors of the Indian subcontinent, providing a glimpse into the changing face of ice hockey.

Puck = aloo tikki

Singh, 28, has developed a signature style tailored for his audience. A puck can be described as an "aloo tikki," something his mother makes especially well. When a team comes back in the second period with renewed energy, Singh might say what translates to "someone must have made them a good cup of chai in the intermission." A player who celebrates after a big goal will "dance bhangra moves."

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