Jujhar Khaira, solely NHLer of Indian descent, nudges range forward in hockey

EDMONTON — Lower than 100 video games into his NHL profession, Edmonton Oilers ahead Jujhar Khaira has already acquired an honour that has eluded a lot of hockey’s greatest stars: being talked about in an official sitting of Parliament, in entrance of the prime minister.

On March 7, 2017, Randeep Sarai, the Member of Parliament representing Surrey Centre, stated in a speech in Ottawa: “As a hockey dad, I do know it’s each Canadian child’s dream to be within the NHL. One such dream is Surrey’s personal, 6-foot-4, Edmonton Oiler No. 54, Jujhar Khaira. On Jan. 16, he scored his first NHL objective on the Arizona Coyotes.”

Khaira, 23, is nearing the top of his first full season within the NHL, the place he’s the one energetic participant of Indian descent. He’s one among three Indians to play within the league, following Manny Malhotra, who completed a 16-season profession in 2015, and the 1990s enforcer Robin Bawa.

Whereas Khaira is accustomed to the eye that comes with representing a minority in a predominantly white league, he was nonetheless greatly surprised when he came upon about Sarai’s feedback within the Home of Commons.

“I received numerous texts from household and associates saying they heard it,” Khaira stated after a latest Oilers follow. “I don’t know tips on how to describe it — it’s simply actually, actually cool.”

Sarai went on to reward Harnarayan Singh, a Punjabi broadcaster for Hockey Night time in Canada whose “Bonino, Bonino, Bonino” name in the course of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals went viral after Pittsburgh Penguins ahead Nick Bonino scored the successful objective in Sport 1 in opposition to the San Jose Sharks. Since its inception in 2000, the Punjabi broadcast has grown from area of interest programming to important viewing for hundreds of hockey followers.

The Bonino name has been seen greater than 270,000 occasions on YouTube, and Singh and his staff earned an invite to the Penguins’ victory parade.

Final Thursday, when the Vancouver Canucks hosted the Oilers, the Punjabi broadcasters and all three Indian NHL gamers had been within the constructing as a part of South Asian Celebration Night time. It was the primary such occasion hosted by an NHL staff. Malhotra and Bawa performed for the Canucks, and Bawa, like Khaira, grew up in British Columbia.

In line with a 2016 Statistics Canada survey, roughly 4 per cent of Canadians are of Indian descent. Khaira’s dad and mom are a part of that group, having come to Canada from India once they had been kids.

His mom, Komal Khaira, grew up in Victoria, whereas his father, Sukhjinder Khaira, grew up in Clearwater, B.C., a group of roughly 2,300 folks within the province’s inside. They met whereas college students on the College of Victoria, the place they had been completed volleyball gamers. Khaira’s father additionally competed on the provincial degree.

“Rising up as a child, we had an enormous property, so we had been all the time exterior, and Mother and Dad had been all the time exterior with us taking part in all types of sports activities,” Khaira stated. “We had a chance to do every part.”

In 2012 he was drafted by the Oilers within the third spherical out of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. After a yr within the NCAA at Michigan Tech, Khaira performed the 2013-14 season underneath Kevin Constantine with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League.

Constantine remembers Khaira properly as a high-character particular person and a participant with a authentic shot at an NHL profession.

“Once I had gamers to my home, he was all the time the primary into the kitchen after the meal to ask my spouse if there was something he may do to assist,” stated Constantine, who now coaches the South Korean Daemyung Killer Whales of Asia League Ice Hockey.

Khaira, whose favorite participant rising up was energy ahead Todd Bertuzzi, didn’t hesitate to stay up for teammates.

“He had no drawback with opponents taking part in the sport onerous in opposition to him,” Constantine stated. “However he had a a lot shorter fuse when he noticed opponents do one thing he thought inappropriate to teammates.”

Khaira spent three years within the American Hockey League, twice incomes call-ups to Edmonton. After signing a two-year contract extension this summer season, he made the Oilers’ roster out of coaching camp, and has since scored 11 targets and 21 factors in 66 video games.

After a roller-coaster season for each himself and the staff, Khaira stays conscious about his potential impression on different gamers of Indian descent.

“I bear in mind, once I was a child watching Hockey Night time in Canada, and my brother and I might go within the basement and play mini sticks, and whoever we noticed that scored a objective on ‘Hockey Night time in Canada,’ we’d wish to be that particular person,” he stated. “So if it’s something like that, I believe it’s fairly particular.”

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