'He shoots, he scores' a job as Putonghua hockey announcer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2008, 12:00am

Jason Wang, a recent broadcast-journalism graduate, has already reached the pinnacle for Canadian sportscasters: he is a play-by-play announcer for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

His big break came when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation decided that for the first time it would broadcast some National Hockey League playoff games in Putonghua. Enter Wang, a recent intern at CBC in Vancouver.

'Hockey is so ingrained in Canadian culture, and I know from my own family's experience that Chinese-Canadians will always look to find new ways to integrate themselves,' said Wang, who was born in Taipei and came to Canada as a nine-year-old.

He remembers watching Hockey Night in Canada because he loved ice hockey and because watching the broadcast was a fast way to learn English. Now, he is hoping that broadcasting Canada's national winter sport (lacrosse is the other national sport) in Putonghua will draw new fans to the game.

New census studies show that Putonghua is one of the fastest-growing languages in Canada and new immigrants from the mainland rank either first or second among the major urban centres behind immigrants from India.

The number of Chinese immigrants is growing in Vancouver and Toronto, followed by Calgary and Edmonton - urban centres where NHL franchises have long been established.

During Hockey Day in Canada, an annual event when all the Canadian teams get together to play 13 hours of hockey, officials at CBC tried using other languages for play-by-play broadcasts. Italian, Punjabi, Cantonese and Putonghua have all been used for those special broadcasts. But the Putonghua broadcasts are a first for the playoffs.

Ideally, CBC had hoped the Vancouver Canucks would get into the playoffs as a way to boost its Putonghua broadcasts among the large Chinese population there. But with the Canucks out of the running, Wang has been broadcasting the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins series.

CBC's director of production, Joel Darling, said it was hoped that the Putonghua broadcasts would generate more fan interest, which could only benefit the NHL and the broadcaster. While the terrestrial television broadcast is not carrying the Putonghua commentary, it can be heard on speciality channels provided by cable and satellite operators.

'What we're trying to do is get more people interested in the game and hit a group that doesn't know the game that well,' Darling said.

He said that although he could not understand what Wang was saying in the demo tape he heard, he liked the pace and tempo of his play-by-play and gave him the go-ahead.

For now, Wang has the dual role of providing both play-by-play action and the colour commentary. With a laptop by his side in the broadcast booth, he has had to find quick translations for words in Putonghua that he has never previously learned.

Instead of 'hockey puck', he has been using the word for 'ball' and the basketball terminology zhu dang for the penalty call of interference.

As for the phrase his English-language counterparts shout with every goal, 'He shoots, he scores,' for Wang it is 'She men, jin qiu!'