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posted on February 26, 2009
Multilingual sports commentary brings hockey fans together
Many Canadians view the sport of ice hockey as more than just a national pastime. They see it as an essential aspect of the country’s identity and part of the fabric of Canadian culture. Across Canada, there are leagues for boys, girls, men and women. After school kids play pick up games at skating rinks in their neighborhoods and in the summer, they switch to road or street hockey.
And on Saturday nights, for the past 56 seasons (or since 1952) families and friends gather to watch the game with “Hockey Night In Canada”. The tradition of “Hockey Night In Canada” actually goes back even further, to 1931 when Saturday night radio broadcasts of the game first began.
“Hockey Night In Canada” consistently remains one of the highest rated programs on Canadian television (and is also the worlds oldest sports related television program).
Hockey Reaches Out…
On Saturday May 24th 2008 viewers of the National Hockey League (NHL), Stanley Cup finals had the option of watching the nights hockey game in both of Canada’s official languages of English and French - and for the first time ever, in Punjabi!
Joe Darling, director of production, Canada Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Sports, “This is a great opportunity to introduce new audiences to the excitement of the Stanly Cup.” The response was so great, that from this pilot project is has now become a regular feature of the hockey broadcast.
Commentary on the games is done in Punjabi by Paraminder Singh the host of a Punjabi television program and Harnarayan Singh a CBC Reporter. “The community response has been fantastic!” said Parminder Singh. Previously, grandparents and parents were often hesitant about joining their children for the Saturday night game. ”A lot of the community was watching the game (ice hockey) but on mute since they didn’t understand what the commentators were saying.”
The Punjabi broadcast is making the game accessible to new audiences and increasing the reach of the CBC’s most valuable franchise. It is also building the fan base and potential ticket revues of the home team, The Toronto Maple Leafs. In addition to the business benefits, Punjabi Night In Canada is providing a way for new immigrants to culturally connect with the mainstream. Raj Singh who came from Delhi three years ago and now works at a small IT manufacturing plant in Mississauga, (a suburb of Toronto) adds, “Watching and understanding the Saturday night hockey game gives me something in common to talk to my colleagues about on Monday mornings - it makes me feel more at home and a part of the group.”
The last official census found that Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada after English, French and Chinese.
The success of the Punjabi broadcast has led to CBC deciding to expand out its audience reach even further and so “Hockey Nigh In Canada” is now also being televised in Mandarin.
Jason Wang, who provides the hockey commentary in Mandarin, remembers how, newly arrived from Taipai at the age of 9, he used to watch “Hockey Night In Canada” to improve his English. Now he will be the one helping new Chinese-Canadians improve their knowledge of hockey and become better acquainted with a national pastime. “Its all come full circle,” says the 24 year Vancouver journalist.