The community that plays together: eliminating language barriers through sport

Developing puck control at the Richmond Minor Hockey Association. | Photo by Nikki Blackburn

Developing puck control at the Richmond Minor Hockey Association. | Photo by Nikki Blackburn

Hockey wins in the face-off between language barriers and cultural adaption. Families new to Canadian culture are using the sport to integrate and immerse themselves in the Canadian way of life.

The city of Richmond, according to the 2011 Census, is home to the largest immigrant population in British Columbia: 50 per cent of residents identify themselves as having Chinese background.

Vancouver – like many other areas of the country – is an ever-growing, diverse and multi-ethnic society and so it should come as no surprise interest in the sport has steadily increased over the last few years.

The Richmond Minor Hockey Association (RMHA) realizes hockey has proven to be a popular choice for families new to the culture. This year, the RMHA has taken steps to make their promotional materials more accessible to families in their community for whom English is not their first language.

Embracing diversity within the community

The league – which is entirely volunteer-led – has translated all their promotional posters and basic rules of the game into Chinese. The equipment list has also been translated into both Chinese and Punjabi, and the addition of Google Translate to the league’s website has proven a useful tool to help residents new to the sport read the necessary information in a more familiar language.

“With Richmond, we have families here who come from many different parts of the world, and it only seemed logical that – as an association – we should be reaching out to those [in our community] that don’t speak English,” says Carolyn Hart, public relations coordinator for the RMHA.

“The translation really helps as parents are able to come to our website and get the information, as opposed to relying on second-hand information, and I think that’s really valuable,” adds Bapinda Dosanjh, manager of the RMHA’s Hockey 3 team.

A family game

Joseph Burroni, 7, lives and breathes the sport. When Joseph got his new helmet, he insisted to his mother, Dawn, that he be allowed to sleep in it. Taking up the sport seemed a natural progression for Joseph, now in his fourth season with the RMHA. Joseph’s older brother and both parents also play regularly. His father, Michael, is also one of the volunteer parent coaches for the association.

Dawn feels the decision to translate necessary information about the Canadian sport is beneficial for community members.

“It’s nice for the families not to have to worry about the language barrier,” says Dawn. “It makes it easier for them and eliminates any confusion. I find I don’t see as many kids having to translate to their parents [these days].”

Dawn praised the association’s disciplined structure because he believes that playing on a team teaches children to cooperate and work with others, as well as helping them make friends.

Carter Kwan, 7, has been playing with the RMHA for three years. Carter enjoys both the physicality of the sport and the social element of being part of a team. His father, Aaron, admits that all the kids get pretty competitive during practice but says they still manage to have a good time.

“They have a lot of fun, which is the most important thing at their age,” says Aaron.

RMHA also offers a one-year Intro to Hockey program for kids new to either the sport or the country. Intro had ten players in 2012, which swelled to forty-five in 2013, partially in response to the translation.

For more information about

the RMHA, please visit


One thought on “The community that plays together: eliminating language barriers through sport

  1. I love this article. I think sport can play a massive part in bringing communities together as well as supporting the new generation to be healthy and to learn the important principles of teamwork.

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