Game over for Punjabi HNIC

BILL KAUFMANN, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:37 PM ET

It’s sudden death and no overtime for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast in Punjabi that featured a Calgary-based analyst.

After two seasons of beaming NHL games in Canada’s fourth-most popular language, the national broadcaster said insufficient ratings ensured the show’s demise.

The co-host of the alternative HNIC and Calgary CBC radio reporter Harnarayan Singh said he couldn’t comment on the move but did describe the experience as “amazing.”

Dedicated Calgary viewer Balwinder Marwaha said the loss of the show is being felt throughout the city’s Indian community.

“It was almost like a religious thing — on Sunday morning we go to the temple and every Saturday night, we’d watch Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi,” said the 28-year-old Flames season ticket holder.

The broadcast, he said, helped Punjabi-speakers feel closer to their country while staying true to their language.

“In my family, it brought together three generations who’d watch the game and the community as a whole was very proud of it,” said Marwaha.

“For the young kids, it’s a great way to retain their language.

“I’m pretty choked.”

A CBC spokesman said too many of the broadcast’s viewers were switching over to the English version for it to remain viable.

In early 2009, there were estimates the show was attracting 100,000 viewers.

But Marwaha said, given the growing popularity of the broadcasts, that’s hard to believe.

Some posters on a Facebook page for the show, which has close to 4,000 members, said the broadcasts spurred their kids into taking up hockey.

Marwaha said there should be enough corporate sponsors in the Sikh or Punjabi community across Canada to support such a hockey show.

“If CBC doesn’t want to do it, let someone else do it,” he said.

The Indo-Canadian population in Canada is more than a million strong.

bill.kaufmann@sunmedia.ca


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