After cancelling Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi in October, Ishani Nath reports that support from the Punjabi community has resurrected the broadcast for the second straight year.
CBC benched Hockey Night in Canada's Punjabi edition in October, but vehement support from the Punjabi community have put the broadcast back in the game.
Beginning Dec. 10, Hockey Night in Canada will be broadcast in Punjabi on digital cable and online every Saturday for the remainder of the season with continuous coverage during the playoff season.
“We’re thrilled to bring back our Punjabi broadcasts,” says CBC’s spokesperson Julie Bristow in a press release today. “Hockey is such a large part of our country’s culture and we’re very happy to continue to offer our national sport to even more of Canada’s diverse population on its biggest stage each week.”
The broadcast originally began as an experiment during the 2008 playoffs and is returning with official sponsorship support from Chevrolet Canada.
But broadcasters and sponsors aren’t the only ones supporting the lively Punjabi-language commentary.
When news of the show’s cancellation broke in October, it prompted an immediate response from the Punjabi community, according to host Harnarayan Singh.
“People didn’t ask why it got cancelled,” the CBC broadcaster says. “The questions right away were: How do we get this back?”
And this proactive support is nothing new for the Punjabi-language broadcast.
“When people can listen to a national sports broadcast in their own language it creates a feeling of great pride in being Canadian and I think that’s very important to keep,” says Balwant Sanghera, president of the Punjabi Language Education Association.
The CBC first cancelled the program in October 2010 due to a lack of funding, but the massive reaction from the Punjabi community put the broadcast back on the air by December.
The cancellation and ensuing reinstatement of this year left fans with a sense of déjà-vu.
“We were very pleased to have it back and now when they cut if off again, that was a big disappointment,” Sanghera says.
Sanghera was one of many community leaders involved with rallying the Punjabi community in both 2010 and again in 2011 to ensure that the program remained on the air.
“They do this every season, it gets cancelled and then they realize that there is a lot of support and they bring it back,” says Sukhpreet Singh, the creator of its official Facebook fan group of nearly 4,000 members. “We’re behind this 100 per cent.”
Though exact results were unavailable, Sanghera says that 4,500 supporters from across Canada signed online petitions in 2010 in addition to the numerous individuals who called in to CBC to voice their passion for the program.
No new petitions were started this year, according to Sukhpreet, because “we felt that the message had already been really strongly been sent to CBC.” Instead, both Sanghera and Sukhpreet encouraged members of the Punjabi network to voice their support directly to the CBC and local politicians – gaining advocates such as NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu.
And according to Sukhpreet, this year’s response did not take much prompting.
“The community responded on their own,” says Sukhpreet. “That’s when you realize how much meaning [the broadcast] has.”
This year, fans were encouraged to not only call in but also canvass for financial sponsors, according Sanghera.
The Punjabi commentary is “is a huge avenue for a business to tap into the South Asian market,” according to Sukhpreet adding that in the past, the fans of the show have show their appreciation to by supporting the sponsors as well.
“We’re pleased we can help fans enjoy CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada in their native language,” said GM president Kevin Williams in today’s press release. “This is a simple example of how we’re focused on serving our customers and communities better than ever.”
There is no discussion as of yet about continuing the show past the 2011/2012 season, according to Harnarayan. “It’s a year to year thing,” he says.
But Sukhpreet and Sanghera say that no matter what happens next season, the Punjabi community ready.
Fans are continuing to grow its support and business connections so that in the event that “history repeats itself,” Sanghera says that viewers will be prepared to make sure that the broadcast can return year after year.
“This broadcast is good for Punjabis, it’s good for Canada and it’s great for hockey,” says Sukhpreet. “I have no doubt that if CBC were to cancel it next year the community will rally again.”
For those unfamiliar with the Punjabi edition of Hockey Night in Canada, The Hour did a segment on the broadcast a few years ago.