Personally, I had no clue that the sport was as popular as it is in India. I knew that field hockey has a huge following and there are many players that play at either the amateur or professional levels, but it seems as though the sport of ice hockey is growing amongst some people in India.
Paul Romanuk filed this report for the IIHF, and I have to say that I'm quite impressed with how the Indian army introduced the sport in Ladakh, India, and now it's grown to be one of the favorite sports in the northern region of India.
Pretty cool, right? A country that seems to be covered in heat due to its location on the globe actually has, literally, a corner of the country devoted to ice hockey!
While some had to wait for the second part of the report, I have the second part below. There are some pretty impressive feats that the Indian team has accomplished, but they still have a long way to go.
Scored their first goal, won their first game... sounds like the Indian team is gaining some steam in their quest to play ice hockey! But Paul Romanuk reported, the shortage of funds in operating the rink as well as securing equipment for players does take its toll on the entire system in India. The rink in Dehradun is a great start, though, especially when you consider that ice hockey is nothing more than a fringe sport in India.
I decided to look into India's ice hockey scene a little more from seat here in Canada, and, lo and behold, there's an icehockeyindia.com website! I clicked through a few of the links and menus on that page, and it struck me as ingenious that the army and locals "used improvised field hockey sticks and converted shoe polish tins to act as pucks". Honestly, the weight and size of the tins of shoe polish would be pretty close to that of a regulation-sized puck! That's some great thinking there!
They have a "Teams" page that features each member of the Indian national team and shows which local team they play for! Sonam Gyaltson, for example, will be 23 in July next year, making him the youngest player on the team, yet he plays for a team in India called the Ex-Servicemen League. He's 22 and an ex-serviceman already? Wow. Good on him for making the team, though, and he's one of two 22 year-olds on the team this year! Perhaps one day an Indian player, born and trained in India, could be called up onto the NHL Entry Draft stage!
The Indian subcontinent that projects into the Indian Ocean may never produce an ice hockey player due to the popularity of both soccer and field hockey in that region. But those towns located in the Himalayan mountain range seem to be enamored with the sport of ice hockey, and it appears that the younger generation may be making inroads in terms of their hockey acumen. If that's the case, maybe we'll one day see India at a World Junior Championship in the future. It won't happen tomorrow, but the India Ice Hockey Federation seems to be on the right track.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!