Thanks to Rogers Hometown Hockey, the City of Surrey made its way to the national stage.
Ron MacLean and his co-host Tara Slone also had some positive things to say about the city during their visit.
While there’s not always a positive light shone on British Columbia’s second-largest metropolitan area, this past weekend was about highlighting success stories from the city.
Over the two-day event, hundreds of people flocked to Surrey Civic Plaza to play street hockey, watch live music and become part of the Sunday afternoon Rogers Hometown Hockey broadcast.
Sprinkled among the crowds of people were individuals who boasted stories of strength, success, and perseverance.
There likely isn’t a more powerful story featuring strength, perseverance and overcoming obstacles than the one of Owen Hopkins.
Owen was eight years old when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Burkitt’s Lymphoma in October 2016. Fighting one of the most aggressive forms of cancer known to man, doctors had to act fast to save Hopkins’ life.
After a hard battle with cancer, Owen overcame the disease and even rejoined his Cloverdale C1 Renegades team on the ice in October.
Fresh off of a game Sunday morning, Owen, his mother Amanda and his grandpa Jim all made it down to Rogers Hometown Hockey, where Owen was interviewed on national television by Ron MacLean and Tara Slone.
“It’s great for him to finally meet Ron,” said Amanda. “They’ve talked about his story quite a bit so it’s nice for him to get this opportunity.”
“I never thought we’d be here when Owen was diagnosed,” she said. “It’s amazing how far he’s come.”
Although Owen has played at a couple of different positions this year, he’s back to taking after his favourite players, Ben Hutton and Chris Tanev.
“I like playing defence better,” said Owen.
Owen wasn’t the only individual who’s had to battle through adversity in order to get on the ice.
Mitchell Bryant was also at Rogers Hometown Hockey on Sunday with his parents Gary and Sue Bryant. Bryant is a member of the Surrey Stingrays adaptive hockey team for young people with autism.
The Bryants made the trek out from Chilliwack to partake in the Rogers Hometown Hockey parade, which featured members of different hockey teams from around the city.
“It’s been great for Mitchell to get out here and be a part of this,” said his father Gary. “It’s well-worth the drive.”
As for Mitchell, the day gave the 12-year-old some time to reflect on his favourite part of the game of hockey.
“My favourite part about hockey is making friends,” said Mitchell before pausing.
“I also like scoring goals,” he said.
Mitchell was joined by a few of the other Surrey Stingrays as they paraded through the Hometown Hockey setup to MacLean and Slone’s booth prior to the pregame show.
During the pre-game show, another type of success story was highlighted. This team was applauded for their work not on the ice, but up in the booth.
The Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi team was out in full force at Hometown Hockey, mingling with visitors before their interview with MacLean and Slone.
Their broadcast team has enjoyed a meteoric rise to success in the last few years as they’ve become a mainstay for Hockey Night in Canada.
That team includes Sportsnet 650 broadcaster and HNIC Punjabi team member Randeep Janda.
“If you told me two or three years ago that I’d be here, I would have told you to go home,” said Janda with a smile.
While Janda resides in Vancouver, all but one on the team are from British Columbia. That includes broadcaster Bhupinder Hundal, who resides in Surrey.
“It’s exciting that we get to promote the game of hockey in Surrey,” said Hundal.
The one non-B.C. guy might be the most well known. Play-by-play broadcaster Harnarayan Singh, who many might know for his famous Nick Bonino call, talks about being the lone non-British Columbian in the group.
“They give me a hard time, but they all love Alberta when they come visit,” he said.
As broadcasters, Singh says the team often cheers for individuals as opposed to teams.
“We find ourselves cheering for the players now. You hear stories about what players are doing in the community, and you start cheering for individual players after that.”
One player they’re cheering for is Surrey native Jujhar Khaira. Singh had his interview with Khaira broadcast during the second intermission Hometown Hockey matchup between Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The night before, Khaira and the Oilers faced Montreal Canadiens. In the Oilers 6-2 drubbing of Montreal, Khaira registered his first two-goal game.
“The timing worked out great for that,” Singh said. “I think we were the good-luck charm.”