Ottawa 67's game shoots to draw students from India who could fill local high-tech talent shortage

First-time event combines hockey and high-tech with Bollywood at TD Place arena
india day
From left, Natalie MacArthur from Invest Ottawa with Acting Indian High Commissioner Anshuman Gaur and Mark Goudie, president and CEO of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), at TD Place arena to promote the upcoming India Day hockey game, featuring the Ottawa 67's, along with a networking and recruitment night for international post-secondary students in Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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An upcoming game between the Ottawa 67's and the Oshawa Generals has much more on the line than just bragging rights and league position – the crowd cheering on its hometown junior hockey team could well be the key to supporting Ottawa's talent-starved high-tech sector. 

Hundreds of international students, mostly from India, will be enthusiastically cheering on the 67's in late February as they become more familiar with Canada’s most popular sport: hockey.

The night will also feature a networking and recruitment mixer to potentially woo students graduating from the STEM disciplines to the city’s booming high-tech sector.

The first-time India Day is taking place Friday, February 28th, at TD Place Arena located at Lansdowne. 

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) is working with such community partners as Invest Ottawa, the Indo-Canada Ottawa Business Chamber, the Canadian Association of Students from India (CASI), the High Commission of India, among others.

Think of it as hockey meets high-tech, with a touch of Bollywood flair. That’s right, there will be live cultural dance performances during intermissions.

“I think it’s absolutely a great initiative, and we’re glad to be supporting it,” said Acting Indian High Commissioner Anshuman Gaur, who, incidentally, is a cricket fan but is quickly warming up to hockey.

“Hockey is such an iconic Canadian sport, and we’re so delighted that Indo-Canadians are connecting with hockey and discovering it as a sport that brings them closer to Canadian life.”

Canada’s post-secondary institutions — including Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College — are experiencing a surge in the number of international students from India, who now outnumber Chinese students. Gaur said there are roughly 200,000 students from India studying in Canada right now. Only a few thousand of them are based in Ottawa but, he added, of those who are, many are pursuing professional fields. “These young people are the very best that India has to offer in terms of being talented, dynamic and very, very energetic people.”

The diplomat also said that Canada has developed, through word-of-mouth, a good reputation back in India. “The Indo-Canadian community here has played a very active role in promoting Canada as a wonderful place to come and study and work,” said Gaur. “It’s a lovely multicultural and liberal society.”

About those winters, though. “It’s only about 80 degrees less than what we have in India,” he quipped.

india day
From left, Natalie MacArthur from Invest Ottawa with Acting Indian High Commissioner Anshuman Gaur and Mark Goudie, president and CEO of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), at TD Place arena to promote the upcoming India Day hockey game, featuring the Ottawa 67's, along with a networking and recruitment night for international post-secondary students in Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Rahul Tomar is a third-year computer science student, with a minor in business, at Carleton University. He left his hometown of Rohtak, located in the North Indian state of Haryana, to study in Ottawa as an international student.

Tomar says he prefers Canada to the United States. He finds it safe and clean here. Tomar said he’d like to stick around and work in Canada, at least for a few years, once he’s done school. “The Canadians are super-friendly and warm.”

Tomar, who serves as the president of CASI, has watched ice hockey on television but has yet to attend a game. He’ll be one of the many South Asian students helping to fill the stands at India Day. “I’m really looking forward to it,” added Tomar, who said their goal is to attract 1,000 spectators as part of India Day. 

A report from the Information and Communications Technology Council says Canada will be short nearly 220,000 skilled workers by 2021. Factors contributing to this trend include our country’s aging workforce and declining birthrate.  

Invest Ottawa, a non-profit organization that facilitates economic growth and job creation in the city of Ottawa, has its own program to attract and retain the best talent to keep up with workforce demands in the local high-tech industry.

“There are some really innovative game-changing solutions happening right here across the city, and that includes autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics, 5G, etc,. etc., etc.,” Natalie MacArthur, director of talent attraction, said in an interview. “There is such a great opportunity to link the co-op programs and the new grad opportunities with these organizations that combine the really interesting work that we’re doing across the city.”

MacArthur will be giving a presentation at the India Day event at TD Place. There will also be representatives in attendance from up to 20 companies. Ericsson, Innovapost, Cengn, Quantropi, Infinera, Ciena and the Kanata North Business Association are confirmed participants, so far.

OSEG owns the 67’s, along with the Ottawa Redblacks football team. It also manages TD Place and the commercial and retail spaces at Lansdowne, which serves as a downtown attraction for residents and visitors.

Hosting the India Night event is a way for OSEG to attract new spectators. A recent study reveals that one in 10 people in Ottawa had gone or planned to go to an Ottawa 67’s game this season.

“That means there are nine in 10 people who haven’t thought about going to a 67’s game, probably because we’re not relevant to their day-to-day lives,” said Mark Goudie, president and CEO of OSEG, in an interview. “This event gives us an opportunity to introduce part of our Canadian identity and our culture to a new group of students.

“For us, I think it’s also about using what we’re good at, which is hospitality and sports and entertainment, to be the epicentre of creating a better Ottawa, through keeping skilled employees here.”

The Ottawa 67’s recently signed a hometown kid, Ranvir Gill-Shane, of Kanata, to the team. Gill-Shane, who is a talented Indo-Canadian defenceman, was named CCHL Rookie of the Month for November.

— caroline@obj.ca