Student Broadcasts Hockey Games in Punjabi

Hockey interest led to gigs as colour commentator, movie actor

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Amarinder Singh Bedi

Amarinder Singh Bedi became a hockey fan after moving to Canada as a teenager. Photo by Mary Dickieson

He came to Canada in high school as a soccer and cricket fan, but watching the Salt Lake City Olympics converted him to a love of hockey.

“I love the excitement and the pace of the game,” says Amarinder Singh Bedi, who is currently working on a master’s degree in marketing at U of G.

After arriving in Canada, it didn’t take long before Bedi learned about the challenges of living with devoted hockey fans. “My uncle is a Habs fan, and my aunt is a Leafs fan.” They were already big hockey fans, and Bedi says watching hockey with them “could get pretty intense.” On the other hand, his relatives generously took the time to teach him the intricacies of icing and off-sides so that he understood the workings of the game.

Bedi later took up skating with his master’s colleague Chris Oldfield and learned ─ after a few falls on the ice ─ to play both ice hockey and ball hockey.

A family friend, Parminder Singh, who broadcasts on Omni TV and CBC, learned of Bedi’s interest in hockey and invited the young man to join him as a colour commentator for the Punjabi edition of Hockey Night in Canada during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Bedi describes the experience as “amazing. The view is great, and you feel the mood and enthusiasm of the fans below you.”

CBC had planned to continue the Punjabi broadcasts throughout the regular hockey season, but that plan is currently on hold because of funding cuts. However, Bedi does expect to be invited back for next year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

He points out that this hockey gig is not just about showing up at the games and being ushered up to the broadcaster’s box. “Parminder does the play-by-play of the game, and I’m the analyst or the commentator. That means I have to do a lot of homework, memorizing all the player’s names, knowing a lot of facts that I can share.” He watches other broadcasts, visits NHL websites and subscribes to newsletters and Twitter feeds to keep in the loop. The Punjabi broadcasts are shown in Vancouver and Toronto, as well as on-demand online.

Meanwhile, with hockey now in his blood, Bedi is doing play-by-play broadcasts for the Brampton Battalion team once a week. These games are shown on the Rogers TV channel in Brampton. “It was tough when Brampton played Guelph in their first home game,” Bedi says. “I was supposed to be supporting Brampton, but really I wanted Guelph to win.”

His favourite part of the hometown broadcast is getting to know the players ─ “the stars in the making,” as he calls them.

With this broadcasting experience under his belt, Bedi was offered another opportunity: a part in the movie Breakaway currently being filmed in the Toronto and Mississauga areas. The movie stars Rob Lowe, Canadian comic Russell Peters and major Bollywood star Akshay Kumar.

It seemed unbelievable at first. “Parminder got a phone call from Akshay Kumar asking him if he’d be interested in being in this movie,” says Bedi. “Parminder thought he was being pranked, so he hung up the phone.” Fortunately, Kumar called back and was able to convince Singh that he was legitimate. Bedi and Singh play hockey commentators in the movie, which is about a Sikh man who wants to play professional hockey.

“It was great to meet Rob Lowe and Russell Peters, as well as Kumar. They were very down-to-earth,” says Bedi. But he admits that acting is a little tougher than working on regular broadcasts. “When you call the game live, you are just calling what you see. For the movie, we had to memorize a script and then try to say it as though it was happening in front of us. That’s harder than it sounds.”

While hockey has brought him a number of exciting opportunities, Bedi still enjoys games of soccer on campus. As a bachelor of commerce undergrad, he was also involved in other on-campus organizations, including the West Indian Students Association and Sikh Students Association.