Surrey, B.C., hockey star Arshdeep Bains makes NHL debut for Vancouver Canucks | CBC News

Arshdeep Bains of Surrey, B.C., made his debut for the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

Bains suited up for his hometown team in their game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

The 23-year-old forward was called up to the NHL club last week from the Canucks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Abbotsford, B.C., but did not play in Saturday’s home game against the Winnipeg Jets, or in Monday’s game against the host Minnesota Wild.

Bains, who grew up a Canucks fan, became one of only four Punjabi players to play in the NHL, the others being Robin Bawa, Manny Malhotra and Jujhar Khaira.

Family and hockey analysts say Bains’ Canucks debut is a positive step for Metro Vancouver’s growing South Asian community.

A South Asian child with
Canucks forward Arshdeep Bains is seen when he was 7 years old. The Surrey-born player grew up a huge fan of the team. (Submitted by Nilesh Patel)

“What can you say? It is a dream come true for him,” said Arshdeep’s father Kuldip Bains, who was waiting to board a bus to Denver’s Ball Arena when reached by CBC News on Tuesday evening before the game.

“We are so proud. The whole town is behind him, everyone is calling — it’s unreal.”

Bains is having a career-best season with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Abbotsford, B.C. He has nine goals and 39 points in 42 games.

“For my whole life, I’ve tried to put my foot in the door at every level I’ve been to and it’s no different here. It’s been a heck of a journey,” Bains said during a media availability in Denver.

“It’s every kid’s dream to play for their hometown team.”

Surrey is B.C.’s second largest city by population and is located just southeast of Vancouver.

The Canucks lost 3–1 to the Avalanche Tuesday night. Bains had two shots on goal, three hits and a block in just over 13 minutes of ice time.

Prior to the game, Bains took a rookie lap during warmups, part of a long-standing hockey tradition that sees players making their NHL debut lead their team onto the ice and skate around solo as their teammates look on. 

“First stepping out there, it just feels like a dream,” Bains said after the game. “And then when you get into your first shift … it’s just like another hockey game. It was really cool.”

‘This isn’t an overnight story’

For the past two years, Bains has played for the Abbotsford Canucks, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate.

Before that, he played in the Western Hockey League for the Red Deer Rebels, where he became the first South Asian player to lead the major junior hockey league in points.

Bains wasn’t drafted by a WHL or NHL team.

The Canucks signed him to an entry-level contract in 2022.

A South Asian man wearing a blue hockey uniform skates on the ice and plays with a puck.
Bains (80) handles the puck on Saturday during warm-ups last weekend. He has spent the last 2 years with the Canucks’ farm team. (Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect)

Nilesh Patel, who helped create a documentary about young South Asian NHL hopefuls, said he couldn’t help but root for Bains and his story.

“Without being drafted, both at WHL and NHL, what he’s done to get there … such a great story of perseverance and hard work to get to your dreams,” Patel told Amy Bell, guest host of CBC’s On The Coast.

A South Asian child holds a hockey stick in a backyard amid heavy snow.
Arshdeep Bains, seen here at the age of 7, was a huge hockey fan growing up in Surrey. (Submitted by Nilesh Patel)

The filmmaker says that Bains’ NHL debut is significant for the South Asian community in B.C.

“This isn’t an overnight story,” he said. “Hey, we’ve known this. This guy should be in the NHL. The community’s now seeing what they felt and that’s huge, right?

“When you feel under-represented … you want to see those opportunities — when somebody should be there — happen.”

Gurpreet Sian, an analyst for Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi, said Bains’ debut would give confidence to South Asian youth who appreciate the forward’s hard work.

“It’s been nine years since Jujhar Khaira made his NHL debut,” he said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for the community.”

A child wears hockey gear and a helmet carrying a stick on an ice rink with other children nearby with sticks and gear.
Rising B.C. hockey star Arshdeep Bains is seen in a file photo of him on the ice at age 4. (Submitted by Nilesh Patel)

Sian acknowledged that Bains may not see significant ice time with the Canucks, who currently sit atop NHL standings, but may be part of the squad if established players get injured.

When asked if Bains could suit up for an eventual playoff run, the analyst said Bains’ future would come down to luck and head coach Rick Tocchet.

“It is a huge, huge accomplishment just making it to the NHL and getting an opportunity to play with one of the NHL clubs,” he said.


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