Raptors to be broadcast in Punjabi after Hockey Night in Canada success
Published Wednesday, March 11, 2009 12:57PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 10:24PM EDT
Toronto's multi-cultural make-up will be on full display on March 22 when the first ever Raptors basketball game in the Punjabi language hits TV screens.
Following on the success of Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi, which made its debut during the 2008 Stanley Cup finals, CBC will air the Raptors game in Punjabi on its alternative channels and online.
Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada census.
Hosts Parminder Singh and Harnarayan Singh say they are pumped about the Raptors game after weekly stints this NHL season covering Canada's national pastime.
"It's going to be huge. We've got a big following amongst the youngsters," Parminder Singh says.
"What's happening right now is that the young kids are watching these games with their families. They've connected to their parents and grandparents through hockey."
Parminder says the team got their start when they hosted six games during last year's NHL playoffs, which were only broadcast in British Columbia and Alberta, but was aired live online. The playoffs were also broadcast in Mandarin.
"We knew one thing, which was that the community loved its sports. It's quite interesting to see that people jumped on board right away," he says.
Support for the broadcast is clear in a Facebook group called NHL Hockey in Punjabi that has close to 3,000 members.
Critics who feel that having the game in another language cuts off South Asians from other hockey fans don't understand that new immigrants are now more compelled to watch hockey, Singh says.
"We can all speak the same language and the immigrants who have come here, they've got a good grasp of the English language but they don't necessarily like the same things. That's why they stay up till 4 a.m. to catch that cricket game on TV," he says.
"One guy in Winnipeg who's a computer programmer wrote us this huge message on Facebook saying I want to thank you guys, because now at work I can talk to my colleagues and really get into this game and join the discussion around the water cooler."
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. spokeswoman Rajani Kamath says the Raptors broadcast is a pilot project and may continue, depending on its success.
"We know that there's a huge multi-cultural fan base from our Raptors perspective and we know that the South Asian community is a big part of that," she says.
"The demographics continue to change in the GTA and more and more people are coming from countries where basketball is popular."
Singh says play-by-play commentating in Punjabi has been challenging at times when there are no words in the language for hockey terms such as puck and icing, but they have fun with it.
"We've interchanged between terms we've come up with. Obviously a puck is a puck and there's really no word for it in Punjabi - there is a tikki - time and time we'd call it a tikki," he says. A tikki is a puck shaped Indian potato appetizer.
"Ice in Punjabi is barf - which sounds a lot like barf so we say the Leafs barfed the puck and at times with the way they've been playing, it's not really far off from the actually meaning of barf in English."
Singh says the ultimate goal for his role right now would be to call a NHL or NBA game with a Punjabi player.
"Now I think we're going to have a new generation of kids who will recognize you don't have to follow those traditional three jobs that your parents kind aspire you towards," he says.
Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi can be seen live on cbcsports.ca, Rogers channel 401, Bell channel 249 and Shaw cable channel 333 every Saturday. The March 22 game between the Raptors and the LA Clippers will also be available in Punjabi on these channels and online.