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'He's paid his dues': Surrey's Arshdeep Bains takes the long route to achieve NHL dream

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There's a reason why Arshdeep Bains touched the ground before taking the ice in the ceremonial solo rookie warm-up.

"It's in our culture," said Harbs Bains, Arshdeep's former minor league coach and close family friend.

"It's a sign of respect. You respect the ground that you're on and you respect the people that are there with you."

On Tuesday night in Denver, Bains became the fourth Punjabi hockey player to make the NHL.

"It was really special," said Bains to reporters after the game, referring to the feeling of taking the ice to warm-up.

"I almost kind of forgot to hit the pucks on the ice when I went out there, so that's how kind of, you know, I was just in awe of being out there so it was really special."

Bains' route to the NHL is anything but conventional. The 23-year-old was never drafted in either the NHL or WHL.

"He's paid his dues," said Harbs Bains. "What he does when no one's watching is the key piece."

As a teen, Bains eventually cracked the lineup of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels. By his fifth and final season with the club, Bains had grinded his way into becoming one of the league's top scorers.

His stellar play earned him a contract with the Vancouver Canucks, where he was sent to the franchise's farm team in Abbotsford.

In his second season in Abbotsford, Bains became a league standout, earning a trip to the AHL all-star game, where he won MVP honours. It wasn't long after that the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks, in need of players due to injury, made the call.

"It's endearing to people because it's more realistic," said Harbs Bains. "He wasn't a first-round draft pick. He didn't get accolades all the way through. He did it the old-fashioned way – elbow grease."

In his debut, Bains played just over 13 minutes and finished with a few scoring chances in a 3-1 loss to the Avalanche. And while it was business for Bains, his former coach believes his impact will leave a lasting impression for South Asian hockey players and anyone who has been told they aren't good enough.

"They see themselves in him, and that's the nice part," Harbs Bains said. 

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