Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play broadcaster thrilled to call Jets game on South Asian heritage night

The Winnipeg Jets return to the ice following an extended All-Star break on Saturday night at Canada Life Centre.

But this won’t be a typical night at the rink for a National Hockey League game.

In addition to hosting Central Division rival Chicago, Winnipeg is holding its first South Asian heritage night as a way to continue to create a culture of inclusivity.

Veteran play-by-play hockey broadcaster Harnarayan Singh has been calling games on Hockey Night in Canada for two seasons, but he’s particularly excited to be in Winnipeg to call Saturday’s contest.

Once he heard that the Jets were hosting a South Asian heritage night, Singh immediately checked his calendar.

“Lo and behold, Sportsnet had me put down to call this game, and so I was very excited because these types of initiatives are near and dear to my heart,” Singh said on The Weekend Morning Show on Saturday.

The Jets held a Filipino heritage night last November, and Singh believes the cultural initiatives taken by the NHL club are fantastic.

“I think it really gives a sense of belonging within the game for different communities, and where we’re at this point in time — here in Canada and across the globe — we need to grow the game. And I think this is a great way to do it,” he said.

Growing up in Brooks, about 190 km southeast of Calgary, and experiencing first-hand racism and discrimination at hockey games, Singh admits he didn’t necessarily feel like he belonged in the audience.

Despite the remarks hurled at him, he still loved hockey and continued to attend games.

He believes if initiatives like the one the Jets, and other NHL clubs are starting to embark upon were around when he was younger, it would have helped him feel more a part of the game.

“I actually think that there’s an untapped fan base here within Winnipeg, within Manitoba, and that is the South Asian community,” Singh said.

That’s not to say that he and others no longer experience backlash.

LISTEN / Harnarayan Singh set to call South Asian Heritage Night Jets game:

The Weekend Morning Show (Manitoba)8:27Harnarayan Singh set to call South Asian Heritage Night Jets game

Ahead of the first ever South Asian Heritage Night at Canada Life Centre as the Jets take on Chicago, guest host Pat Kaniuga chatted with Hockey Night in Canada’s Harnarayan Singh about why calling this game is so special for him.

But after more than 700-plus games of broadcasting in Punjabi, he believes he’s earned his position as a Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play broadcaster on the main network.

“I feel like I’m just as Canadian as anybody else. I feel like I love this game and I’m very passionate about it. And this is something I’ve always wanted to do. So why can’t someone like myself or others get these opportunities?

“I want to be able to open the doors for so many others as well,” Singh said.

‘I’m so moved that the Jets thought of me’

Charmi Sheth didn’t know much about hockey when she moved to Winnipeg from India a year-and-a-half ago.

Now the graphic design artist’s logo is on merchandise and will be worn by the Winnipeg Jets in warm ups on Saturday.

“I just cannot explain how excited I am,” Sheth said Friday on Up to Speed.

The jerseys will go to auction in support of Punjabi Community Health Services Manitoba. The auction runs from Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. CT until Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. CT.

A portion of the proceeds of the merchandise designed by Sheth is also going to the Punjabi organization.

She said her inspiration for the design came from Rangoli, a traditional art form practiced during celebratory occasions and meant to bring happiness and good luck.

A graphic produced by the team shows details about the Winnipeg Jets South Asian heritage night logo.
A graphic explaining the inspiration behind the Jets logo notes the colourful background designs feature patterns and motifs inspired by textiles throughout South Asia, including phulkari, nandhani and saree. (Submitted by Winnipeg Jets)

The colourful background designs of the graphics feature patterns and motifs inspired by textiles throughout South Asia, including phulkari, bandhani, and saree.

Sheth started to produce art as a young child, and painting is her favourite medium.

It also runs in her family. Her grandfather was an artist, and her dad is also a graphic designer.

“They are super proud of me,” Sheth said. “I wish they were here to see my work, but I will share some videos with them.” 

Former MuchMusic host Monika Doel will also be front and centre at the rink.

Doel, who grew up in Beausejour, about 60 km northeast of Winnipeg, will drop the ceremonial puck before signing the anthems.

“When we were growing up in Beausejour, we didn’t have the money to spend as immigrants. Immigrant kids didn’t go to Disneyland. We didn’t go to Jets games,” she said.

Doel expects Saturday will be an emotional night for her, and only wishes her parents could be at the rink with her.

“It takes you right back to who you really are and why you and your family really came here and what this country has done for you. It’s mind-blowing what this country has done for me. I could never have lived the life I have lived in any other country in the world,” she said.

“I am so happy. I am so honoured, and I’m so moved that the Jets thought of me.”

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