Bawa was the first NHL player of South Asian descent when he played for the Washington Capitals in the 1990-91 season.
Born on Vancouver Island in 1966, Bawa started playing hockey on an outdoor pond behind his father’s store and played minor hockey in Cowichan Valley. In 1982, he started major junior with the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League (WHL). An accomplished scorer off the right wing, Bawa stayed in Kamloops for 5 seasons, where he posted 288 points in 307 games while helping the Blazers win a WHL championship in 1986. He was also named an All-Star during the 1986-87 season, his best season in the WHL when he scored 57 goals and 113 points in 62 games. After the season, he was signed by the Washington Capitals in 1987.
Starting professional hockey, Bawa shifted roles from a skilled scorer to an enforcer. He racked up 39 points and 239 penalty minutes for the Fort Wayne Komets of the now-defunct International Hockey League (IHL) during the 1987-88 season. The next season, he moved up to the Baltimore Skipjacks of the American Hockey League, where he scored 47 points in 75 games and added 205 penalty minutes. Although he played primarily in Baltimore during the 1989-90 season, Bawa also made his NHL debut when he played 5 games for the Capitals.
Traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 1991, he played just 2 games in the NHL for his hometown team before being moved to the San Jose Sharks in 1992. He posted career-highs of 5 goals and 42 games for the Sharks during the 1992-93 season.
Bawa was selected by Anaheim in the 1993 Expansion Draft, and would finish his NHL career with 12 games for the Ducks during the 1993-94 season. From 1993 to 1996, Bawa played primarily in the IHL with stints in San Diego, Kalamazoo, Milwaukee, and San Francisco.
In 1996, Bawa returned to the Fort Wayne Komets where he started his professional hockey career. Now a veteran, Bawa was the team’s captain until his retirement in 1999.