Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains says he’s proud to represent the Punjabi community.
“That’s a huge reason I keep going. I want to make this sport for everyone and if I can even help one or two kids to chase their dream that’d be special for me,” Bains said, after signing an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks Friday.
Only a handful of players of Punjabi descent have played in the National Hockey League. Bains could be the fifth in league history, after Robin Bawa (1987-99), Manny Malholtra (1998-16), Jujhar Khaira (2014-present) and Andreas Martinsen (2015-present).
Bains is having a season to remember for his Western Hockey League club. For much of the year, he’s been battling for the top spot in the league’s points race.
After a 6-3 win against the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday, Bains and linemate Ben King were tied for the league lead in points with 85. Bains has the most assists in the league with 54.
The Surrey, B.C. native is the first player of South Asian descent to lead the WHL in points.
It was “a dream come true” to sign a contract with his childhood team, he said.
“Ever since I started playing my dad loved hockey,” said Bains.
“I really play this game for my family, my dad especially. (Vancouver) is his favourite team. It’s a real special moment that I get to live his dream … to play in the NHL. Hopefully I can make it happen.”
It took a bit of time for this moment to sink in, the six-foot-one forward admitted.
“It really just hit me when they announced it publicly. When I signed (the contract), I didn’t really feel it then. But (Friday morning) it was pretty special seeing all of the support.”
Bains has been with the Rebels since the 2017-18 season. His points-per-game has improved each year he’s played in the WHL.
He entered this season knowing he’d have to play well to earn a contract in the NHL.
“I obviously believed in myself. My teammates believed in me, coaches and everyone. With this environment I knew I could give myself a chance (to earn and NHL contract) and get my foot in the door. I’m excited that it did happen.”
Steve Konowalchuk, Rebels head coach, said Bains “deserves” this NHL contract.
“He’s worked hard all year. Super quality person; that’s where it starts. He leads by example, enjoys being at the rink every day,” said Konowalchuk.
“The skill’s been there. We’ve seen the skill and I’m sure you’ve seen it in the years before. But he’s definitely put pressure on himself to play a complete, professional-type game this year and he’s done that.”