In Canada, building a Punjabi audience for hockey

Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save against the Calgary Flames. There aren't words for "slapshot" or "puck" in Punjabi, but Hockey Night in Canada is drawing some of the country's 1.1 million speakers in with a Punjabi language broadcast.

Harnarayan Singh.

Canadians love hockey. It's been called a national religion. And with accelerated immigration from South Asia, the number of Punjabi speakers has grown to 1.1 million. 

That gave the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the idea to take an iconic show -- Hockey Night in Canada, equivalent to Monday Night Football in the U.S. -- and produce a version in Punjabi. 

Harnarayan Singh is the host Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi on the CBC. He was profiled in the New York Times, Friday. He grew up loving hockey. While English was his first language, he's now grateful that his parents, who migrated to Canada in the 1960s, taught him fluent Punjabi.

"Punjabi is the 3rd most popular language in Canada, after ... the official ones, English and French," Singh says. The CBC he says, "initially started this as just a pilot project, but it took off and we're in our sixth season now."

Hockey terms in Punjabi were an initial challenge for the program; there weren't any. So Singh and his collaborators improvised, using "aloo tikki" (potato pancake) for puck. Listening to him call a game, English words are littered thorughout as well: hockey, team names, stick, goal, shot. 

"There wasn't a term for slapshot," Singh says. "So slap to the face is a chapeRR and so we call it a chapeRR shot... We cooked up some more because we realize it was drawing people to the broadcast." 

Watch Singh call a game in Punjabi:

Full games broadcast in Punjabi are at

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.

Harnarayan Singh.


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