Designing Vancouver Canucks' special edition Diwali jersey a career highlight, artist says

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Visual artist Jag Nagra, 37, with the Vancouver Canucks special edition Diwali jersey she designed for the team's home game on Nov. 5. (Vancouver Canucks/YouTube - image credit)
Visual artist Jag Nagra, 37, with the Vancouver Canucks special edition Diwali jersey she designed for the team's home game on Nov. 5. (Vancouver Canucks/YouTube - image credit)

Almost as soon as the email from the Vancouver Canucks appeared in her inbox, Jag Nagra knew what her answer would be.

Nagra, a visual artist from Pitt Meadows, B.C., had received a request from the NHL team to design a special-edition jersey for Diwali, the festival of lights celebrating the the victory of good over evil and lightness over darkness.

"Immediately, within 20 seconds of the email coming through, I was like, 'Yes, let's do this,'" said Nagra, 37, speaking in an interview Friday.

The Canucks will wear the jerseys during the warmup ahead of Friday's game against the Nashville Predators, on the home team's fifth annual Diwali night.

Nagra had free range for her design, except one requirement: the team asked her to use its classic "stick in rink" logo as a starting point. From there, she could transform it however she liked to symbolize Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists around the world.

"I immediately started thinking of imagery that was part of my life growing up, with things to do with Diwali," Nagra told CBC's The Early Edition.

"I just put pen to paper and started drafting what I wanted it to look like."

Vancouver Canucks/YouTube
Vancouver Canucks/YouTube

The new jersey is a brilliant yellow, with the reimagined logo incorporating symbols familiar to the festival, like colourful fireworks, sparklers, a lotus flower and a mustard plant.

The vibrant orange, pink and blue colours seen inside the motifs are reminiscent of twinkling lights you'd see from fireworks and lanterns at dusk on Diwali, Nagra explained.

The shoulder pad uses the familiar "V" patch, with Johnny Canuck replaced by a flame to represent a diya, a clay lantern lit as part of the celebrations.

Nagra saw one of the jerseys in real life for the first time last week.

"I was just blown away with how it looks. I cannot wait for tonight. It's going to be wild," said Nagra, who has been a Canucks fan since childhood.

"When I was a kid, especially, we used to watch all the games. What could be more exciting than the playoffs when you're 10 years old? It was such a bonding experience for us.

"So now, all these years later, as an adult, to be collaborating with them … is wild."

Vancouver Canucks/YouTube
Vancouver Canucks/YouTube

Nagra, who launched her career after teaching herself to draw nine years ago, said seeing her own work on the ice will be surreal — but seeing an NHL hockey team incorporate culture into its jersey means something personally.

"It hasn't honestly been since the last two or three years where I really found an appreciation for my culture and my roots and a sense of pride that I never had before," she said.

"If I had seen this sort of representation when I was 10, I think it would have done a lot for me."

Seth Rogen trades vase for jersey

Only hours after its design was made public, Nagra's jersey had attracted the attention of a hometown celebrity — actor Seth Rogen, who grew up in Vancouver and and now dabbles in pottery.

He offered to trade one of his hand-thrown vases for one of the jerseys. (Rogen's work sells for thousands, with one pot selling at the Vancouver Art Gallery's 2021 Art Auction in June for $12,000 Cdn.)

Nagra was going to offer Rogen one of the two jerseys she was given as a memento, but said the team sent one to the actor instead.

She plans to pass down both of her jerseys to her children.

Partial proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will benefit the Punjabi Market Regeneration Collective, which is working to preserve and revitalize the historic market in South Vancouver.

LISTEN | Jag Nagra speaks about designing the Vancouver Canucks' Diwali jersey:

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