South Asian Observer - Sports : Mahriaa shot, Keeta goal!
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Mahriaa shot, Keeta goal!
( Feb 26 2009 )

By Amit Gossai



Hockey is on a new trend and Punjabi-Canadians are jumping on the bandwagon.

With the introduction of play-by-play commentating in Punjabi, Hockey Night in Canada is now targeting the fourth largest language in Canada.

The idea came about last year when CBC aired the Stanley Cup finals in Punjabi.

Parminder Singh and Harnarayan Singh called the game online and on some channels.

“We did six games in Punjabi last season and received a tremendous response,” said the 27-year-old Toronto native Parminder. “It was a bigger reception than we expected.”

It has been so well received in the Punjabi community that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is considering Punjabi broadcasts of Leafs games two to three times a week, and even the Raptors.

Last Saturday, the morning practice between the Leafs and Canucks at the Air Canada Centre was opened to the Punjabi community.

More than 1,000 Punjabi hockey fans filled the seats to get a glimpse of the players and also meet Parminder and Harnarayan in person.

In addition, the hosts announced the game from the arena for the first time.

"I knew there is a huge Punjabi-speaking population but never thought the response would be so good," said Parminder.

 The response has been so overwhelming, a Facebook group has been set up dedicated to Hockey Night In Canada, Punjabi Edition.

Currently, there are close to 3,000 members.

"We've been getting amazing feedback," said Harnarayan, 24, a reporter for CBC Radio in Calgary. “Many parents and grandparents would earlier watch the game but they mute it because they don't understand what the commentators are saying. Now, they are much more involved.”

As part of Hockey Night in Canada, the games will be relayed in Punjabi through Rogers (401), Bell (249) and Shaw Cable (333) every Saturday starting at 7 p.m.

Since their maiden show, viewership has since multiplied many times over.

"I would say we have close to a hundred thousand viewers in Canada," said Parminder.

But not everything comes as easy as it sounds.

Before they could explain the sport to viewers, the two broadcasters had to come up with a proper lexicon.

Some terms are easily translatable from field hockey, so "stick" is "soti.”

"He shoots, he scores" became "mahriaa shot, keeta goal."

Parminder and Harnarayan had a bit of difficulty trying to find a word for “puck” but the two settled on "tikki" based on a puck-shaped potato appetizer.

After a few games, they started calling it puck when viewers told them they understood what it was.

“We explain the game for people who don’t know what Hockey Night is all about,” said Parminder. “We also want to duplicate Satellite Hot Stove, where three hosts talk about the game during the intermission and call it ‘Garam Chilla.’”

Another term they struggled with was icing. Ice in Punjabi is "barf."

The two usually kid around and sometimes say “barfing the puck” just to have fun.

During their play-by-play, the pair analyzes the game and interacts with viewers on the Facebook group. They also ask game-related questions and give out prizes.

The idea is to get the community as involved in hockey as it is in basketball.

"Leafs have not been (as) able to tap into the (South-Asian) market as (the) Raptors," said Parminder. "We want to change that. Having more games in Punjabi will definitely help connect people to the game, and especially the Leafs."

Since their first broadcast, the two hosts have become celebrities of sorts.

When they go to the Gurdwara, children surround them, asking about their favourite players.

"It feels good to have brought hockey closer to these children," said Parminder. "We've been told how this has made them feel more Canadian than ever before."

Looking to introduce new elements to every show, the two have thought about a Punjabi take on Don Cherry's Coach's Corner.

"We'll have our own Don Cherry with colourful turbans and kurtas,” said Parminder.

Parminder and Harnarayan’s next broadcast is Sat. Feb. 28 when the two commentators cover the play-by-play Punjabi style for the Toronto vs. Ottawa and Minnesota vs. Edmonton games.

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