In 1991, the Golden Rockets hit the ice for the first time. As a freshly minted expansion team playing together for the first time, there was a sense of excitement buzzing around the team and the potential of the group.
Leading the way for the Rockets in their inaugural season was Jora Dhami. Born and raised in Golden, the Indo-Canadian was voted Rookie of the Year in 1991, and made the KIJHL All Star team after scoring 54 goals in 34 games. It was Dhami who scored the first ever goal in Rockets history.
“Scoring that first goal, I’ll always remember that,” said Dhami. “Scoring the 50th as well, that was a really big achievement for myself, and then as a team, making the playoffs and winning the first round.”
Dhami had been playing minor hockey in Golden from a young age. For many local players, Midget was as far as their hockey career could take them in Golden. Dhami was one of the first Golden minor hockey players to take their hockey career to Junior.
Dhami spent two years with the Rockets. In those two years, he won league MVP both times, Most Sportsmanlike both times, and was top two in scoring, with 54 and 46 goals in his two seasons respectively.
His talent didn’t go unrecognized, as Dhami was offered a chance to play Major Junior in Regina. However, after sustaining an injury in training camp, he made the decision to return to Golden. Alongside his family, he decided to pursue a university education, at the expense of taking his hockey career to the next step.
However, the lessons he learned playing for the Rockets have stayed with him after all this time, and helped him throughout his career.
“You’re always gonna have ups and downs and hockey teaches you to deal with that,” said Dhami. “It transforms into your life beyond hockey, because you’re always going to face adversity and you have to fight through it.”
On Saturday November 23, the Rockets are honouring Dhami by retiring his #7 jersey. The jersey retirement ceremony, which is scheduled to happen just before puck drop, stretches beyond just Dhami, and touches on his impact on the Indo-Canadian community.
The entire night is dedicated to Indo-Canadian culture and community in Golden, with Hockey Night in Punjabi coming and performances by dancers. Fresh pakoras will be for sale as well.
“A lot of the Indo-Canadian community here has reached out now,” said Dhami. “They’re really excited, and excited for me and proud. It’s going to be a great night.”
While Dhami no longer wears the Rocket crest on his chest, he’s still active in the hockey community. He plays in a recreational league as often as he can, and is busy imparting a love of the game on his kids through coaching them.
“I just love it. I can’t get away from it,” said Dhami.
As for the current Rockets, Dhami has one thing he’d like them to keep in mind: “Just enjoy the experience. Junior hockey doesn’t last that long, so take the time to take it all in and build on it in your life.”