We continue our mentorship summit series shining a light on our South Asian youth athletes. Our first course of action is giving them much needed insight into what it takes to be a future leader in hockey at the next level and how to navigate the current racial climate of the world within the sport. To do this, we have created a mentorship program that creates long lasting relationships with mentors and allies who will become a support system, advocating in their favour and developing these young people through their journey.
In collaboration with Apna Hockey we will give our South Asian youth athletes a representative environment to promote growth and learning from community leaders that have walked in their shoes.
In April 2017, the organization was founded by Lali Toor in Edmonton, AB & became the first South Asian hockey network in the world. The platform itself was founded because of the shortcomings of Lali Toor’s hockey career while he played at the highest levels of minor hockey in Edmonton. Lali’s Dad, Baltej Toor, had a passion for the game of hockey. When he immigrated from India to Edmonton in the early 1980’s, he saw the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, & Jari Kurri lifting cup after cup. So, in 1996, when Lali was four years old his Dad bought him his first set of equipment from a local garage sale. Throughout his career, Lali was always the only South Asian player while competing against future NHLers like Jaden Schwartz, Brendan Gallagher, Colton Parayko amongst others. Lali unfortunately had to realize that he looked different, was treated differently, and the word racism was known to him at a very early age. Because of the lack of community support, lack of mentors, and the racism/systemic racism Lali felt while playing hockey, this led to the Inception of Apna Hockey; an organization dedicated to grow & diversify the game of hockey, while also supporting & mentoring the next generation of South Asian athletes. The platform highlights prominent players & connects the South Asian hockey world via social media, media outreach, hockey workshops, public speaking and more.
Four months after its inception, Dampy Brar joined Apna Hockey in July 2017. Dampy is one of the first players of South Asian descent to play professional hockey and a leader in the South Asian community. Despite a 16-year age gap between Dampy and Lali, the two clicked right from the start. They shared a passion to help their community in the hockey world. They met in Red Deer, AB for their initial meeting - and the rest is history
Today, Apna Hockey is a multi-faceted organization creating social change in the game of hockey. It became an NHL award winning organization last year in September 2020. Co-founder Dampy Brar won the Willie O’Ree Community Hero award for his work with Apna Hockey; becoming the first Sikh-Punjabi to win an NHL award. The Willie O'Ree Community Hero Award recognizes an individual, who, like Willie O'Ree, has worked to make a positive impact on his or her community, culture, or society through the sport of hockey.
Major initiatives Apna Hockey has been a part of over the years include fundraising and coaching the Indian National Women’s ice hockey team in 2018 when they travelled to Canada for Hayley Wickenheiser’s hockey tournament. In January 2019, Dampy travelled to Leh, Ladakh, India to meet the girls in the Himalayas and train them on the ice. In December 2018, Apna Hockey was chosen to lead and organize the 2019 IIHF World Juniors South Asian kickoff initiative in Vancouver, BC. In 2020, Bauer donated over 800 pieces of hockey equipment to Apna Hockey to distribute / grow the game within the South Asian community.
Finally, in 2021, Apna Hockey partnered up with the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames to bring forth the very first South Asian based Bauer First Shift program for kids new to hockey. Apna Hockey’s mandate is to increase participation in hockey within the South Asian community across North America and in India. We have started a university scholarship fund to aid and support South Asian players that have played hockey and have achieved outstanding high school academic standing. We have also identified approximately 60+ South Asian hockey players (male and female) that play at elite levels including the NHL, AHL, DEL 1, ECHL, NCAA, Usports, WHL, OHL, AJHL, BCHL, MJHL, OJHL, Sweden 2, and BCIHL. There are enough elite Indo-North American players to represent India as the Indian National Men’s ice hockey team and compete in International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) sanctioned tournaments (one of our future projects). By collaborating with like-minded organizations, Apna Hockey will continue to grow & diversify the game of hockey with the use of its comprehensive network.