When ice hockey goes ‘karo ja maro’ in Canada

| Canada | 28 May 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Harnarayan Singh, right, with former Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi co-commentator Parminder Singh, watch a practice at the Air Canada Centre in February 2009.  Photo / RICK EGLINTON / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
Harnarayan Singh, right, with former Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi co-commentator Parminder Singh, watch a practice at the Air Canada Centre in February 2009. Photo / RICK EGLINTON / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

By Carrlyn Bathe

While most American hockey fans have been getting their Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage from standout Hall of Fame commentator Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick and the rest of the broadcast crew at NBC, a much less well-known announcing team from Canada has become a major hit on Twitter for their incredibly enthusiastic game calls.

Hockey Night Punjabi analyst Randip Janda and play-by-play commentator Harnarayan Singh broadcast games in the native tongue of Canada’s many South Asian fans. But their enthusiasm has become so contagious that plenty of fans all over the internet who don’t speak their language have started sharing footage of their incredible calls.

The art of a game call often transcends language. You don’t have to understand a word because the energy they speak with paired with the visual of the game guides you in such a way that it all makes sense.

FOXSports.com talked to Janda and Singh to get exclusive details about the hype behind the calls.

1. Twitter has exploded with people praising HNP, when did this start to happen and what has the reaction been?

JANDA: We’ve been thrilled to have the support from hockey fans from across North America for the past 2 years. Every Saturday during the regular season & throughout the playoffs, we’ve broadcast & commentated NHL games on a weekly basis on OMNI Television. We have received a lot of great support in Canada, where there is a large Punjabi speaking community. The call that opened our eyes to how much fans love our calls was in Game 5 of the 1st round series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals. Our team’s call of the fight between the Flyers’ Luke Schenn and the Caps’ T.J. Oshie, was full of enthusiasm and energy, picked up huge traction on social media. The amazing thing was that people who understand Punjabi loved it, but so did people who do not even understand Punjabi! From there, Harnarayan Singh (our play-by-play analyst) called 2 Nick Bonino OT game winning goals that went viral and it’s never been the same since!

2. What inspires you to make such enthusiastic calls?

SINGH: Punjabi culture is very vibrant and loud and commentary in Punjabi for other sports has also been lively. I think music, food, and humour are such a big fabric of the culture that our commentary caters to those characteristics. Secondly, we allow our personalities to show through in our calls. Our crew loves to have fun and we thoroughly enjoy what we do.

3. Talk to me about a typical night calling a game. Is every call off the top of your heads as they happen or do you have a few planned out that you can’t wait to say?

JANDA: We have a great team of commentators (myself, Harnaryan Singh, Bhupinder Singh Hundal & Harpreet Pandher) along with our social media guru & segment host (Amrit Gill) and our producer (Nathen Sekhon), who all help in the creative process. We all chat before, during and after the games and always provide input regarding the games we call. In the end, each commentator decides on what they want to say and what facts they want to focus on but it’s a team effort.

SINGH: Other than the factual, statistical information and analysis etc, the vast majority of the commentary for the goals is off the top of our heads. For the playoffs, my prep is altered though because you can focus in so much on the players as you’re covering them for 4 to 7 games and so there are some calls that I jot down…but it really depends on the moment in the game. Sometimes you’ll plan to use a phrase but there won’t ever be a moment that presents itself to use it properly. You can’t force it. It has to be natural, genuine and in the moment.

4. You really bring a lighter side to hockey. You’re all fun to follow on Twitter and make some pretty great tweets about the games. Why is it important to bring humor to the sport?

JANDA: It’s important for us to bring humor to our show because sports [are] meant to be fun no matter what language you speak. No matter which team you support, we want to help bring people together through the sport of hockey. If we can have fun and bring people together through some great NHL hockey and our viewers love it, I think we’re doing okay. I think one of the main reasons people enjoy what we do, even though they may not even understand Punjabi, is because they can relate to us, they like to have fun just like we do.

5. Who is the wrestling fan?!

JANDA: We have a few wrestling fans on our team. I grew up watching wrestling as my dad is a huge fan to this day! I grew up rooting for Bret the Hitman Hart and Macho Man Randy Savage to name just a few. I know my colleagues Harpreet and Bhupinder (who made the Mick Foley ‘Bang Bang’ reference) were also fans growing up and that’s why we often reference wrestling in our show, whether it’s Shawn Michaels, the Hitman or Hulk Hogan. But none of us compare to our producer, Nathen Sekhon. He’s a wrestling super fan to this day. I like to think having him in the studio during the show always keeps wrestling on the top of our minds!

6. What are your favorite calls of the playoffs that you’ve broadcasted so far?

SINGH: The first Bonino goal call that went viral is my one of my favorites…just [because] it was just so unique and there’s a back story behind it. In my pre-game prep, I somehow penciled Bonino in as left wing, center, and right wing and only noticed my mistake seconds before going to air. Seeing Bonino written times three was in my head and at the time he scored, it was Bonino-Bonino-Bonino-Bonino-Bonino….and I love how the Penguins’ players embraced it and how it became a hashtag #BoninoBoninoBonino. That was something I’ll never forget. Not far behind though is being able to coin a new term, “Sid the ‘former’ kid” on Crosby’s first playoff overtime goal. They’re making t-shirts with that written on it in Pittsburgh! It’s just incredible!

7. What other broadcasters inspire you?

SINGH: Growing up in Canada, I listened to Bob Cole a lot in the playoffs. He was the voice for so much of hockey’s history. Not just his style…but also his commitment to Hockey Night in Canada, spanning decades, is something that is very inspiring. As a broadcaster, I learned a lot about how to prep for my show from analyst Kelly Hrudey, who is one of most genuine people in the industry.

8. With no Canadian teams in the playoffs, you all seem to carry the torch quite well with making sure Canada still gets amped up about the postseason.

JANDA: With no Canadian teams in the playoffs, we weren’t sure what to expect. But to say we were pleasantly surprised with the response, would be the understatement of the year! We’ve received feedback from hockey fans from across Canada whose team may not be in the playoffs, but they are enjoying our broadcasts because they find it entertaining. It’s great to see fans of the Maple Leafs, Flames or Canucks still watching hockey even though their teams had an off year.

9. Game 7 Pens vs Tampa Bay is coming up tonight; what kind of excitement can we expect from the HNP crew?

JANDA: On Hockey Night Punjabi we call Game 7, a “Karo ja maro” game. This means Do or Die in Punjabi. Every great play, mistake, save, and shot will be a big one because it could decide the fate of 2 teams. You can expect our team to be just as excited as the fan sitting at home or in the arena. We’ll be full of energy, excitement and enthusiasm with a trip to Stanley Cup Final on the line!

SINGH: I mean, it just doesn’t get any better. Winner take all. Game 7’s…there’s just nothing like it. There have been a few Game 7 blowouts this post-season in the NHL but I don’t think the East Final will be like those. I think our entire crew is going to bring their a-game and you can definitely bet on the call to be high energy and just full of excitement!

The original article, entitled ‘The most exciting goal calls of the Stanley Cup Playoffs aren’t in English or French’, appeared at Fox Sports on 26 May 2016. See here.


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