When Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira recently suited up for the Edmonton Oilers, he became just the third player with Punjabi roots to play in the NHL.
Khaira, 21, a first-generation Canadian, was selected by the Oilers in the third round of the 2012 draft.
Prior to his call-up, Khaira had been playing for the Bakersfield Condors, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate. The left-shooting centre’s first NHL game was on Nov. 28 in Pittsburgh against the star-studded Penguins.
Robin Bawa and Manny Malhotra, both of whom played for the Vancouver Canucks during their careers, are the only other NHL players of Punjabi descent, according to Surrey-based broadcaster Bhupinder Hundal, who works the Punjabi-language hockey games on CBC.
Khaira seems to be taking it all in stride.
“It’s obviously cool hearing the stat and all that, but at the end of the day, I feel like everybody is on the same spectrum,” Khaira told the National Post.
“You want to make it regardless of race. I put enough pressure on myself as it is.”
For the Oilers, the six-foot-three, 214-pounder has played mostly on the team’s fourth line, but has at times found himself skating with top-gunners Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl.
As of Wednesday, Khaira has netted one assist in the five games he’s played in the NHL.
His brother Sahvan, 17, plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.