Kitimat feels like home to newcomer Dev Mohokar, just a lot colder. From playing cricket in his hometown of Pune, India, to first setting foot in the “freezing” Tamitik arena, his love of sport has pushed him around the world.
Mohokar is a 29-year-old recent transplant to Kitimat and the assistant general manager with the Kitimat Saax, Kitimat’s new Junior A hockey team.
His journey starts in Pune, a city of over seven million people and an important industrial hub 150 kilometres southeast of Mumbai — about the distance between Prince Rupert and Terrace.
He grew up playing every sport you can imagine — cricket, soccer, badminton, volleyball and many others kept him out in the community with his friends.
“There were times when my parents had to come and drag me back home just to feed me,” Mohokar said.
He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering in India, but quickly realized his interests lay elsewhere.
“I realized in my second or third year that a nine-to-five job, sitting in front of a computer or a machine is just not for me,” he said.
With this realization, hoping to stay true to his passions, he applied to the University of Stirling in the UK where he did his master’s degree in sports management in 2016.
After a serious knee injury from playing soccer forced him to return to India, he was working with a US-based sports analytics company that reviews game footage. He stayed with the job for two and a half years, then received a great opportunity to help manage a professional Kabaddi team in his home city — Puneri Paltan.
Kabaddi is an extremely popular Indian contact sport played between two teams of seven players. The game is played on an indoor court, and the objective is for a single player on offence to run into the opposing team’s half and tag as many of their defenders as possible, and return to their own half of the court, without being tackled by the defenders, in a single breath. Think a combination of tag, wrestling and dodgeball.
After staying with the team for some time, he felt like he had exhausted his opportunities. Craving an adventure, he left his family and golden retriever Alfie in June 2022. After a short stint in Montreal and Ottawa, he applied for a job with the Saax on indeed.com.
Then came the culture shock.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I had never seen a hockey game in my life,” he said laughing.
Aside from having seen the occasional hockey fight online, it was an entirely new sport in a foreign town, halfway across the world. “When I came here on the 31st of August, I went into the rink and it was so cold,” he said.
“It gave me shivers cause it was cold, but also goosebumps because that was the first time that I’d ever visited an ice rink.”
Despite the cold, he completely understands the allure of the game.
“It’s a great game. It’s fast, very technical, physical and aggressive. The guys that we have on our team are also really solid guys that I’m happy to know.”
He’s confident that the town will learn to love the newly formed team like he does.
“Kitimat is going to love this team. Once we start playing more games, they’ll see how much effort all these guys are putting in each and every game.”
Not only has he discovered his love of the game, but he’s also found a home in Kitimat.
“I fell in love as soon as I came in, seeing all those mountains,” he said. “I keep meeting new people every day, and everyone is as nice as can be.”
He could even see himself settling in Kitimat.
“When I came here I instantly felt like I was home,” he said. “I know I’m an outsider, but people accepted me and acted like there was no difference between us.”
Sport is what has brought him to Kitimat, and is what continues to inspire him.
“At the end of the day, it’s something which gives me happiness and satisfaction.”
In the future, Mohokar would love to be involved in soccer, his first true love. He has his eye on the Canadian Premier League, a newly formed league with teams across the country. He’d love to help develop Canada’s newest franchise, Vancouver FC.
“I love football, and helping to develop the team in Vancouver would be amazing,” he said.
For now, he’s happy right where he is. He encouraged anyone that sees him around town to say hi and introduce themself.
“Kitimat is a really great town, and I would feel lucky to settle down here.”