Hockey Night in Canada, with Mr. Chapared Shot

Nearly a decade before I became known worldwide as the broadcaster who called out, “BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! BONINO! NICK BONINOOOOOOOO!” on the air after Penguins center Nick Bonino scored one of the biggest goals of the 2016 Stanley Cup finals, I was just a 21-year-old hockey fanatic living in Calgary, Alberta. I was contemplating whether to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a hockey broadcaster, or to give in to those who cautioned me about the unlikelihood of achieving my goal. Then, in 2008, while sitting at my desk as a reporter for the CBC, I got a call from Joel Darling, an executive producer with Hockey Night in Canada, the television program based in Toronto.

He had an idea for me.

The CBC was looking to spearhead a diversity project that would entail covering hockey in my native tongue of Punjabi, and they wanted me to serve as a commentator. I was surprised by the idea, but I’m pretty sure I said yes before Joel could even explain the whole thing.

Within a few weeks, there I was with my colleague at the time, Parminder, calling the 2008 Stanley Cup finals on Hockey Night in Canada. With Punjabi being the third-most-spoken language in Canada behind English and French, the idea actually wasn’t as farfetched as it may have seemed. Once the finals were over, though, I wasn’t exactly sure what would come of it.

So when the producers of Hockey Night in Canada called and said they were going to make Saturday night doubleheaders in Punjabi a fixture for the following regular season, I couldn’t believe it. As a four-year-old, living in a small town in southern Alberta, I used to pretend I was a hockey commentator, calling the play-by-play in my parents’ living room. Now, I was being given the opportunity to call games for real every weekend, from CBC’s hockey headquarters in Toronto.

There was just one problem.

I lived in Calgary with my family and couldn’t justify the expense of moving to Toronto for what Hockey Night Punjabi was paying at the time. But I also knew that if I said no to the opportunity, there would be a lineup of people ready to take on the position. To make matters worse, I was told there wasn’t any budget to fly me to Toronto for the games.

I didn’t exactly know how I could make it work, to be honest. But I wasn’t about to turn down the chance to do Hockey Night every week.

I told the producers, “Don’t worry. I’ll be there!”

And with that began the epic plan: Take the job … keep it a secret how I’d be getting to the studio in Toronto each week … improvise from there.

My family helped me brainstorm how I might be able to pull it off, and we began looking into booking round-trip flights between Calgary and Toronto. These were flights I’d pay for myself, from my own pocket. We’re talking approximately 60 flights for the entire season — thousands and thousands of dollars.

I decided to keep this from my bosses at Hockey Night in Canada partially because I didn’t want them to think I was a lunatic, and also because I didn’t want them to worry that I wouldn’t be able to make it every Saturday.

My sister Gurdeep works in corporate management and used her business background to quickly create a number of Excel spreadsheets that showed all the different airline ticket prices, fare sales and rental car price comparisons. We were meticulous and tried to be as efficient as possible. I would continue working as a news reporter in Calgary during the week and save up money to help cover the costs of my flights on the weekends. Then I’d take the Friday night red-eye from Calgary to Toronto.

I would arrive at Pearson International in Toronto early on Saturday morning, grab a rental car, head straight to the station, do my prep and call two games. After the second game ended at around 1 a.m., I’d jump in the rental and drive right back to the airport so I’d be there to take the 7 a.m. flight to Calgary. Because I needed to save money, it wasn’t going to be feasible to spend any nights in a hotel. Instead, I’d find some benches in the waiting areas of the airport where I would try to catch an hour or two of sleep.

It wasn’t easy.

At 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, after the security lines opened, I would hustle to my gate, and then try to sleep on the plane ride home. Once I arrived back in Calgary, Gurdeep would pick me up and we’d head straight to service at the Sikh temple where my family worships. I was always worried that if I ever stopped going to the temple — if I let my career take precedence over my faith — I might somehow lose the blessing of being a part of Hockey Night in Canada.

So that’s what I did. That was how I lived my life for four years.

I’ll be the first to admit … it was pretty crazy. There was no guarantee it would all work, but I was ready to take a chance and hope for the best.

As it turns out, that approach kind of runs in the family.

My great-grandfather, Chanda Singh, was one of the first 100 Sikhs to come to Canada. He arrived on a ship from India to the shores of British Columbia in 1908. The situation in Canada then was not as welcoming as he had hoped. To his surprise, even parliamentarians at the time were advocating for a “white Canada.” And so my great-grandfather decided to take the risk to travel back home.

It’s piece of family history that is significant to me, and it’s a fact that I like to keep in my back pocket for when someone questions my Canadian-ness or says the all too common “Go back to where you came from!”

My more immediate Canadian heritage can be traced back to 1966, when my folks came here to pursue a better future.

It was June when my father, Santokh Singh, arrived in Alberta. And as he’s told me many times, it was snowing. Yes, in June! That was the first time my dad had ever seen or felt snow.

Welcome to Canada!

He had been interviewed and hired over the phone for a teaching job in the town of Cold Lake, but when the administration realized he was sporting a turban and beard, he was told, Thanks, but no thanks.

My mom and dad then ended up in a little town called Brooks, which is about a two hour drive southeast of Calgary. At the time, there were only around 3,000 residents.

Brooks is perhaps best known for the gigantic meatpacking plant just west of the town. Thousands of cattle are slaughtered there each year, and depending on which way the wind is blowing, you can often smell the strong stench of manure when you drive past it on the Trans–Canada Highway. I once heard that there was a time when 80% of McDonald’s beef came from that place.

Of course, my family is vegetarian!

My parents had lived in Brooks for nearly 20 years before I was born and earned a reputation as honest, hardworking people. But things weren’t always easy — especially at the beginning, when their house was egged on a regular basis.

We were different from our neighbors in a lot of ways. We spoke a different language at home. We ate different food. We listened to different music. And, obviously, my family looked very different from everyone else in Brooks. There were very few minorities at all, let alone Sikhs wearing turbans.

But somehow my folks made it work, and they always cherished the heritage and traditions they had brought from India. They raised my sisters and I to keep those traditions, and began teaching us Punjabi from a very early age. They also incorporated traditional Sikh music and instruments into our household.

Every week we’d go to school with all of our Caucasian classmates and teachers, but then every Friday afternoon, my parents would pack us into our red Plymouth Caravelle and drive us the two hours to Calgary, just so we could participate in community events, or take music lessons, or learn about our history. Then on Sunday afternoon, following service, I’d get in a couple of hours of ball hockey with my buddies from the temple. Eventually my folks would pile us into the car and drive all the way back to Brooks.

That was my life from virtually the day I was born all the way up through high school — every single weekend, without fail, no matter what the weather was like. My folks were so committed to teaching us all they could about our roots and the values from our faith.

But my parents also raised us to be contributing members of Canadian society … and my sisters and I became extremely patriotic.

They taught us to love Canada, while nurturing within us a deep passion for Canadian things.

And, as we all know, the most Canadian thing of all just so happens to be the sport of hockey.

When I was born in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, my cousin Rozy Sran brought an Edmonton Oilers mini hockey stick to the hospital for me. It was literally the first gift I ever received, and it was something I grew to cherish. This was the mid-’80s, and my older sisters had become huge Oilers fans.

They loved Wayne Gretzky.

So we watched a lot of hockey back then. A lot. And I couldn’t get enough!

When I was a toddler, I’d use my miniature hockey stick to try and mimic what the players were doing on the ice. But before long, by the time I was four, I started to emulate the announcers.

I’d try to do my own version of the play-by-play. There was this stool we had in our dining room, and I’d always drag that thing out in front of the TV. That was my perch. My family bought me a kids microphone with a little stand from Radio Shack. It was the perfect toy to nurture my interest … although the downside for the rest of my family was that I wouldn’t shut up when I had that mic in my hands!

By the time I was in the fourth grade, I was using a cassette player to record my own sports talk show in my bedroom.

And I was into it.

I even had intro music that I played on a keyboard and everything else you could imagine. At school, when I was bored in class, I’d write out each team’s name and try to remember as many players’ names as I could for each city. Then I’d write the numbers 0 through 99 in my notebook and list off as many players as I could for each number.

And, of course, the number 99 was a big one of for me. In most of my class pictures, I’m wearing a Gretzky sweater. But my passion went so far beyond that. On January 26th one year when I was in elementary school, I remember asking my mom, Surjit Kaur, with the utmost seriousness, whether our family could celebrate the Great One’s birthday.

We always celebrated birthdays in my house the same way, with my folks saying a prayer and my mom preparing a special, sweet pudding called parshaadh — it’s made of your typical baking ingredients: flour, sugar and butter. So I was like, “Mom, it’s Wayne Gretzky’s birthday … can we make parshaadh today too? Please, please, please!”

Thankfully, she was a very good sport about it, and so for a few years there during the early ’90s, I said a prayer and ate some parshaadh on the 26th of January — in honor of Gretz. (My wife, Sukhjeet, and I wonder if my kids will eventually do something similar for McDavid, or maybe Gaudreau?)

So, much of my childhood was all about hockey. Except for, you know, the part about actually playing hockey. Ice hockey, that is.

From an early age, my parents had us in several extracurricular and cultural activities that took up all of our time — activities I greatly enjoyed. So growing up, I knew early on that playing ice hockey wasn’t going to be possible for me. I did play a lot of street hockey with friends, and that was where I lived out my dreams of scoring the game-winning goal in a Stanley Cup final. But it was always either on the street, or in a gym somewhere, never on the ice.

The weird thing is that, despite not ever having played ice hockey, I feel like parts of my upbringing sort of mirrored some of the things that hockey families go through — and the sacrifices that hockey parents make for their kids. Every Friday, I’d pack my bag, throw my stuff in our car and head out on the road with my dad at the wheel. We put a zillion kilometres on our Caravelle over the years. I feel like a lot of kids in hockey know that experience well.

The night before my first day of kindergarten at Eastbrook Elementary in Brooks, I remember my family having a rather serious discussion about what I was going to wear on my head to school.

As practicing Sikhs, we try to keep ourselves in a more natural state by not cutting our hair. Turbans keep the long hair neat and tidy, but there are several different types and styles from which to choose. Tying a turban is an art form, and it’s up to the individual to decide on things like color and size.

The conversation we had back then was about which style would be better accepted by my new classmates, and which ones might lead to me being teased. I only remember bits and pieces, as I was obviously quite young at the time, but I recall that everyone went back and forth discussing different options. What I remember the most, though, is that more than anything, I only wanted to wear the style of turban that my dad wore.

I was adamant about it. And even though that turban style was more for adults or professionals, my parents decided to let me have my way.

Then, at recess, on the very first day of kindergarten, I was riding on a little merry-go-round and a boy next to me pointed to my head. He made a funny face. “What is that?” he asked. “Why are you wearing that?”

A second later the boy grabbed my turban and ripped it off my head.

You can’t really blame a kid at that age for being curious, or mischievous, but needless to say, it was a startling experience for me. When my parents learned about what had happened, they started to equip me with answers to all of the questions kids would ask me about how I dressed, or about other cultural elements of my appearance. They taught me not to confront someone making fun of me, or to escalate those situations. “Look at it as an opportunity to educate people,” my father said. “Tell them about who you are, and why you are proud of your heritage.”

My mom encouraged me to be strong and to “help people to understand and appreciate why we’re different.”

So that’s what I tried to do. But as I grew up, I developed a more successful go-to tactic….

Talk about hockey.

From a pretty early age, I became known around school as this hockey-obsessed individual. That allowed me to make friends within different cliques that may not have otherwise accepted me.

And lots of times I’d need those kids to help me out.

When I was being bullied by bigger kids, or pushed around, my hockey friends always had my back. They’d stand up for me. It was almost as if I had my own crew of bodyguards. If they saw someone making fun of me, or pushing me, they’d step in and put a stop to it.

Hockey, in one way or another, always had my back growing up.

That was before 9/11, though.

One of the biggest wake-up calls of my life occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was in high school at the time, back in Brooks, 2,277 miles away from New York City.

After news of the attacks broke, all of the classrooms had TVs on, and everybody was kind of discussing what had happened. We were all in shock. Everyone was just really, really sad.

At one point, I left the class to go to the washroom. I was walking down the hallway, when all of a sudden I felt someone grab my neck from behind. Before I knew it, someone much bigger than me had me by the throat and had slammed me up against the cement wall.

“Go to hell!” the kid screamed, staring right into my eyes.

I was not only scared but also struggling to breathe. I tried mightily to pry his hands off my throat, but he was bigger and tougher than I was, so it was impossible.

After the initial shock of being attacked, I then recognized who he was.

It was one of the kids who used to stick up for me in elementary school when other students would bully me. He was … someone who I thought was my friend.

Now, with a look of hatred and anger in his eyes, he was trying to choke me.

And he wasn’t stopping, or calming down.

“Go back to where you came from! We don’t need you here. You people are evil!”

Even as I was struggling, I did my best to get out a few words.

“I’ve known you forever,” I said. “You’ve been to my house. We played ball hockey together! Why are you doing this? It doesn’t make any sense!”

He finally let me go and left. As I stood there trying to catch my breath, I could still feel the pain from his writhing grip around my neck. All I could think about was how something that happened thousands of miles away, and had nothing to do with me, could trigger that level of violence from someone I had known well, and who I thought I could trust.

That night, I went home and tried not to think about what had happened.

It was during the hockey off-season, though. So there were no games to watch … no highlights to check out.

That was one time in my life when hockey couldn’t help me.

When it came time for me to try and determine what I was going to do for a living, there were several things I needed to work through.

You see, my parents are both teachers. My dad is a bookworm with seven postsecondary degrees and a Ph.D. in mathematics curriculum. My mom was a principal in India, and all of my siblings were high-school valedictorians.

Whether high expectations were placed upon me or not, I felt pressure to carve out a successful career.

I’d always wanted to be a broadcaster, but I wasn’t exactly certain if my parents would go for it. Careers in television or radio weren’t the norm, especially in the South-Asian community. I was at times reluctant to bring it up as a realistic career path because I myself didn’t even know if it would ever pan out.

At one point in high school, I remember approaching my dad about calculus.

I really, really didn’t want to take that class. I was better at English and social studies than I was at math and science, and my dad always joked that it was because I was good at bullshitting!

“You’ll never be able to bullshit through a math test,” he’d say.

But since my dad was the only teacher who taught calculus at my high school, I was worried I’d have no choice but to take the class. I wasn’t sure how he was going to react if I raised the idea of bypassing it.

When I finally got up the courage to ask him one day at the dinner table, he kind of sat there quietly looking down at the tests he was marking.

It felt like an eternity.

“Well,” he said, finally, “you’re never going to have to take the derivative of a hockey score.”

Then he looked at me and was like….

“Don’t worry about it.”

Hearing that, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

My mother smiled and told me to go for my dreams, and that she was sure everything would work out no matter what field I chose.

And just like that, in about five seconds, my parents removed all the anxiety that had built up within me about whether they would support my pursuit of a broadcasting career.

So I ran with it.

When I couldn’t make it to the temple, there were a lot of Golden Grahams being eaten for dinner.

Harnarayan Singh

I volunteered at a local radio station in Brooks, and then went to broadcasting school at Mount Royal University in Calgary — where I hosted a hockey talk show called Power-Play and was somehow also voted best TV weather person in my class. Then, in my second year of college, I landed an internship with TSN and found myself in Toronto, as a 19-year-old, shaking hands with James Duthie and Jennifer Hedger, broadcasters I’d always watched on TV.

I couldn’t get enough.

At the same time, it was tough being away from my family, and living alone. Eventually I mapped out the locations of all the Sikh temples in Toronto and memorized the menus of what they were serving on which days. But when I couldn’t make it to the temple, there were a lot of Golden Grahams being eaten for dinner.

And, you know what? It was worth it. Absolutely.

When my internship was up, TSN hired me full-time as an editorial assistant. I wrote scripts for the SportsCentre hosts and chose which highlights to use.

I was beyond grateful, and felt so fortunate. But something inside of me was telling me that I still needed to give myself a chance to be in front of the camera, as opposed to working on the production side. That had always been my dream. And, as fun as the production work was, I felt like I would regret not giving an on-air position a try.

So I went back home.

I’ve had a lot of big breaks in my life, but perhaps one of the biggest happened when I took a job as a casual reporter with CBC Radio back in Calgary. It was there that I met Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kelly Hrudey. This was 2005, just after I’d come home from my time with TSN in Toronto.

Kelly, who lives in Calgary, would always be walking in and out of the CBC building there. Anytime I saw him, I’d grab him and chat about hockey.

He was so gracious and willing to share advice. Then, in 2008, CBC started experimenting with ways to expand its Hockey Night audience by appealing to Canadians who spoke other languages. They tried Cantonese and Mandarin, and then decided to give Punjabi a shot. Marc Crawford, who had recently been let go as the coach of the Canucks and was working as a Hockey Night analyst, was someone who really advocated for it. He noted that Punjabi grandparents in the greater Vancouver area would recognize him at grocery stores and gas stations, and that he’d always see Punjabi kids playing ball hockey on the streets in Surrey.

So when the CBC was looking for potential broadcasters, Kelly put in a good word for me. A few weeks later, I was on the air.

And I’ll never forget those early days. The first games we called were the Detroit vs. Pittsburgh Stanley Cup finals in 2008.

Back then, it was crazy because, in the midst of my insane travel schedule, I also did all of the show’s promotional work on my own. Everything kind of ran through my laptop. The program didn’t have any extra resources available after paying two announcers, the producer and the technician. So if I wanted the show to succeed, I knew I had to pick up the slack.

At first, it was just me emailing literally every single person I knew — from my personal email account — to let them know that if they tuned into X station at X time, they’d be able to watch our games in Punjabi. Then a friend created a Facebook group for the broadcasts, which really helped to spread the word. Every week, I’d send out a message to the group about which games we’d be broadcasting for the upcoming weekend. I ran the show’s Twitter account from my laptop and attempted to answer queries and comments as best as I could.

Handling all of the social media for the show and trying to get the word out to the community was like an unpaid job. I remember how much time and effort it took to design posters, and how much money I spent printing them out for the show. I’d then ship them to other cities across Canada, and have friends and family put them up at local Punjabi stores and Sikh temples. I urged Punjabi newspapers to run the posters in their publications free of charge, to help spread the word. Every single media interview request we got, I scheduled on my own.

There were times when people would tell me that their local cable provider wasn’t carrying Hockey Night in Punjabi. I organized letter-writing campaigns from community leaders in those areas to help lobby the company to carry the show. It was very much a hands-on, grassroots push in the initial years just to let as many people as possible know who we were and what we were about.

Everything had a real start-up feel. But, I have to say, I loved every second of it.

And, more importantly, the response from the community — almost immediately — was incredible. Plus, the media attention we got was through the roof.

It was clear to me that we were on to something.

Fast-forward a few years, and the show continued to progress. The move from Toronto to a Calgary studio elevated what we were able to provide for our viewers. We were able to incorporate video into our pregame and postgame chats. And my analysts in Calgary, Bhola Chauhan and Inderpreet Cumo, brought a lot of creativity to the broadcast, incorporating Punjabi poetry and humor into our show.

We’re creating new fans. We’re actually growing the sport. This is not just another TV show. And that’s extremely special to me.

Harnarayan Singh

Then, in 2013, once our broadcasts moved to Vancouver at the Rogers-OMNI facilities, things really took off. All of a sudden we had a bigger budget, a dedicated high-tech studio and set to work on, and top-notch production quality, with everything in HD. We were able to incorporate highlights of other games into our pregame and postgame shows. The team of commentators grew to include Bhupinder Hundal, Harpreet Pandher, Randip Janda, Taqdeer Thindal, Gurpreet Sian, and our first ever female broadcaster, Amrit Gill. All of them have brought something unique and special to the broadcast and have helped it become the success it is today. Not to mention, our producer in Vancouver, Nathen Sekhon, who was the first producer to actually understand Punjabi.

Having a larger team to work with allowed me to focus strictly on my play-by-play and spread my wings in terms of creativity.

I was always big on including key characteristics of the Punjabi community in our broadcasts — things like music, food and humor — so as our audience expanded, my colleagues and I ramped up that element. The Punjabi culture is very vibrant, and people seem to really love it when we bring in those elements. They feel included, and it’s been a lot of fun to see some of that stuff really catch on.

The most famous term on the show, hands down, is chapared shot. We don’t have a word for slap shot in our language, so we took the word that means a slap to the face and added on shot at the end.

It’s been a HUGE hit.

I’ll be out shopping or something, and I’ll hear, “Mr. Chapared Shot!” Or kids will come up to me and demand that I say it.

There are others that I really enjoy, too, though. When we mention the penalty box, we use Punjabi words that equate to “the box of punishment.” And we’re always referencing chai tea. Like, if your team had a bad period … maybe they need a cup of chai tea during the intermission.

I feel like it’s these little touches that have allowed us to develop a super loyal following.

One of the questions that I got when we first started was, Why don’t people just watch hockey in English? And the answer to that question is that the majority of our viewers who are watching Hockey Night Punjabi wouldn’t be watching hockey at all if our broadcasts had not introduced them to the sport.

I truly believe that we are helping to bring people together and helping to grow the sport.

One of the biggest impacts of the show has been intergenerational. Grandparents who have come from India and other countries in Eastern Asia often have a difficult time building strong relationships with their grandchildren who were born in Canada. There is a language gap, but there’s also a cultural and a technological gap. Kids don’t necessarily want to associate with their grandparents because they think they don’t know anything, or that their elders are just not cool. But I’ve had lots of older people come up to me and tell me that our show has helped them build bonds with their grandkids that simply never existed before. They can watch games together now, and share experiences, and have fun.

That’s real impact. And it’s not just limited to families.

A few years ago, I got an email from a guy who had emigrated from India and was living in Winnipeg. He was having a difficult time fitting in at work initially and was quite unhappy with life in his new country. He was considering returning to India, but eventually he noticed that everyone at work would talk about the previous night’s hockey game. That’s when he found our show. In no time, he was able to participate in those conversations at work, and, pretty quickly, the camaraderie he felt at his workplace increased tenfold. His message to me said that he had decided to stay in Canada because of our show.

I found that to be incredible.

And to top it off, not only are more people from our community watching and attending games, they are also signing their kids up to play youth hockey. I still remember several years back when I was in a local hockey arena in Calgary, and these parents came up to me and said one of the main reasons they had put their kids into hockey was because they loved our show.

We’re creating new fans. We’re actually growing the sport.

This is not just another TV show.

And that’s extremely special to me.

Hockey has always been something near and dear to my heart. To be able to contribute to the sport, and to give back, has been truly wonderful. I get emotional about it, honestly, because this means so much to me.

I sometimes get the chance to speak to students across Canada, and I tell those kids, “Look at my story. I’m not who you would expect to be doing this, but yet I still got here.” Recently, I was given the opportunity to host hockey games on national television in English for Sportsnet, and it just feels like icing on the cake. I never imagined that would happen, but someone has to be the first and I’m grateful to have been able to open the door for others.

It just shows that we live in a country where it doesn’t matter if you look different, or if you have cultural differences from the mainstream.

If you have a goal, if you have a dream, you can go for it here in Canada.

It really is an amazing country.

People always ask me where I get the ideas for my goal calls.

A lot of times, it’s spur of the moment, but I’m proud to say that the general style I use has its roots in Punjabi culture.

If it’s a big enough goal, and if the name fits, I always try to let the last syllable go on as long as I can — at the very least, I try to beat out the goal horn. And that comes from Punjabi singers, who are known for trying to compete with each other to see who can hold a note the longest.

The Bonino call, of course, is the one that people bring up the most. What happened there was, I always jot down some notes before each game, and write out the lineups in terms of who is likely to play on which lines. On that night, before Game 1 of the finals, for some reason, I made this funny mistake where for left wing, center, and right wing on one of the Pens lines, I accidentally wrote Nick Bonino’s last name. So it was Bonino, Bonino, Bonino, in all three positions.

My producer and my analysts noticed the mistake, and we all kind of had a good laugh about it. Like: Bonino passes to Bonino, who passes to Bonino. Bonino, Bonino, Bonino.

None of us had any idea of what was going to happen that night….

John Crouch/Icon Sportswire/AP Images

And then it happened.

The goal Nick scored during that game was just so huge, and when he scored I kind of still had that pregame mistake in my head. But instead of three Boninos, it came out as like … I don’t know, 10. And of course I held the last one for as long as I could.

After the game, I didn’t even think twice about it. But then we started seeing the reaction to that goal call on social media.

Before I knew it, the call had gone viral. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all the highlight shows. That clip was everywhere.

A few weeks later, we’re in Pittsburgh for the Stanley Cup celebrations, and Head Coach Mike Sullivan shakes my hand and tells me he used my goal call in video sessions during the finals — in order to amp up the players. He tells me straight up, “You guys were a part of our Stanley Cup run.”

I was floored by that.

Then I’m standing just outside the Pens locker room, and Mario Lemieux sees that our broadcast team is there and he’s like, “Hey, who did the Bonino call?”

He was so excited about it.

Mario gave me a huge hug and thanked me, and he told me that I will always be a part of the Penguins family after that call.

I was just like, This is Mario Lemieux … and he is THANKING me.

Are you kidding?!

It was unreal. I could’ve never predicted something like that in a million years. I’m still pinching myself.

A French Canadian sports legend from Ville-Émard in Montreal and some Indian guy from Brooks, Alberta … hugging, and laughing, and coming together because of their shared love for the greatest sport in the world.

Hockey made that happen.

That … and so much more.

But, you know, talk about the most Canadian thing ever.