Diwali is the festival of lights and it is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs (Bandi Chhor Divas) and Buddhists. It symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The origins of this festival began in India and today Diwali is celebrated all around the world. It encourages the communities to come together in sharing food and gifts among friends, family, and those in need.
The Vancouver Canucks have a strong following from the South-Asian community. This was illustrated by the Canucks fifth annual game night celebrating Diwali on November 5th when they hosted the Nashville Predators at Rogers Arena. I had the privilege of attending this game and witnessing all of the special game night festivities that celebrated Diwali. The Diwali Night, which was presented by Rogers, contributed to the NHL initiative, “Hockey is for Everyone”, which uses the game of hockey and the League’s global influences to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities.
The pre-game warmup featured the Vancouver Canucks in their warm-up jerseys which were designed by a local South-Asian artist, Jag Nagra. Jag designed the warm-up jerseys with custom artwork that honored the elements of both Diwali and the Vancouver Canucks brand. The customization for the warm-up jerseys were the Diwali colored player names in Punjabi and Hindi. The main crest of the jersey was transformed into a special Diwali icon that incorporated the Canucks Stick in Rink logo styled with iconography familiar with Diwali symbols including a diya, which is a clay lamp, fireworks, and a lotus flower.
To celebrate this year’s Diwali festivities, the Canucks for Kids Fund donated $20,000 between Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, which is a Sikh-faith led volunteer organization supporting Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Kids Play Foundation, a local non-profit organization that engages youth through sports.
The crowd was entertained at the Diwali Plaza outside Rogers Arena by DJ Heer from Lucid Entertainment and DJ Intense on the indoor concourse. The variety of Punjabi music played by both DJs was from well renowned Punjabi artists, like, Diljit Dosanjh, Amrit Mann, AP Dhillon and Jasmine Sandlas. It was a delight to see the crowd getting into the spirit by doing bhangra moves. Also, there were performances by Vancity Bhangra dancers and Beats by Dhol drummers between the first and second period intermissions.
Jugpreet Bajwa, an internationally acclaimed singer performed the national anthems and I was amazed at this young talent as he has come a long way. I have listened to a variety of different songs produced by Jugpreet and he has an exceptional voice. He can sing in several different languages, including, English, French, Hindi & Punjabi. Furthermore, he has won several National and International Awards.
The game started off at a great pace. Both teams were skating hard and both goaltenders made timely saves when called upon. The first goal of the game was scored on the power play by Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators at 5:49 of the first period and the assists were from Eli Tolvanen and Mikael Granlund. The Canucks kept their intensity level up the entire period by a creating handful of scoring chances; however, they could not finish their opportunities. When the crowd was gearing up for the end of the first period, we were treated to a goal by Brock Boeser of the Canucks at 19:51, the assists from Travis Hamonic and J.T. Miller. The goal was Boeser’s third of the season and it was a beauty. The slap pass by J.T. Miller was right onto the stick of Boeser, and Boeser went to his forehand then backhand to deke and undress Nashville’s goalie Juuse Saros. After that, Boeser went to his forehand again to put the puck into the empty net and tied the game at 1-1 after the first period.
In the first intermission, the Canucks honored the five South Asian men who used their turbans to rescue Maple Ridge hikers at Golden Ears Provincial Park on Thanksgiving Monday. The five men, Gurpreet Singh, Gagandeep Singh, Arvindjeet Singh, Kulinder Singh, and Ajay Kumar rescued two people who had fallen down a steep embankment and were stranded by Lower Falls. This was a fitting tribute by the Canucks to South-Asian art and culture.
The Canucks honored Jasmine Mander who is part of the coaching staff as a performance analyst for the Canadian National Women’s soccer team. The Canadian Women’s soccer team won Olympic gold in Japan during the 2021 Summer Olympics. Moreover, the Canucks had mixed martial artist Arjun Bhullar in attendance as he is the One Heavyweight World Champion and Bhullar cheered on the Canucks and pumped up the crowd.
The second period started with the Canucks keeping the possession of the puck and creating high end scoring chances with their defencemen being aggressive in the attacking zone. However, the Predator’s goalie Saros was on top of his game. As for the Predators, they had their chances as well but Demko stood tall for the Canucks. We all knew the next goal of the game was going to be crucial as both teams were trading chances but the goalies on either end were strong. The next goal was scored by Nils Hoglander of the Canucks at 10:08 of the second period and it was his first of the season and it was assisted by Tanner Pearson and Bo Horvat. Hoglander’s goal was all about patience as he out waited Saros and tucked the puck into the net. This was the Canucks first lead of the game at 2-1.
However, the lead was short lived as Matt Duchene came in on a breakaway and scored for the Predators at 12:26 of the second period to tie the game at 2-2 and the assist was from Mikael Granlund. The Predators took the lead again as the second period was winding down. The goal came at 19:51 of the second period and it was scored on a power play. It was Philip Tomasino’s first of the season assisted by Luke Kunin and Thomas Novak.
As for the third period the Canucks created opportunities; however, they could not finish their chances. The Canucks downfall was their power play as they went 0-5 in the game. The final score line ended up 3-2 in favor of the Nashville Predators and the shots ended up 28 apiece for both teams. The difference was the Predators went two for three on the power play and the Canucks could not score on their own man advantage.
The overall fanfare for the Diwali night celebrations was very well put together by the Vancouver Canucks. The crowd was entertained with bhangra music by DJ Intense not only during the period intermissions but also during the T.V. timeouts as the Jumbotron showcased bhangra dancers from Vancity Bhangra and dhol players engaging the crowd at different levels of the concourse.
Everyone was cheering and having a great time. I liked the special Diwali themed merchandise that was for sale at the Canucks retail store which included, t-shirts, hoodies, pins, lanyards, and keychains. Lastly, I would highly recommend every Vancouver Canucks fan to come check out a Diwali night game live at Rogers Arena as it is well worth the price of admission.