Canada, Russia, the United States — these are probably the countries that come to your mind when you think of ice hockey. But did you know? India has also a fully-functioning ice hockey squad.
Yes, in a country where the ‘religion’ of cricket overshadows all other sports, there lies a small fraternity in the extreme north of the country in Ladakh, who diligently participates in the game of ice hockey.
The contingent of 22 has seven Indian Army jawans, four members from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and rest are mostly civilians and students. The team is led by 24-year-old Tsewang Gyaltson and coached by Adam Sherlip, who is a former ice hockey player from Long Island in New York, previously coached in China in 2007 and shifted to India in 2009.
The team plays in Ladakh in the winters, but after February there are no frozen lakes there. So they have to practice in an ice skating rink in Gurgaon, which does not facilitate international standards. So far the team has managed to register their only international win against Macau in 2012, in Dehradun. It took rigorous crowd funding to send the team to Kuwait for the Challenge Cup Division 1, where they played along with countries like Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, Malaysia and Oman.
According to the coach, “India backs for a team that wins”, but we have to understand that for ice hockey through thrive in this country, initiatives have to be taken to improve the infrastructure and development of the system. Worshipping cricket has taken a toll even on the popularity of field hockey, so ice hockey stands for barely a chance.
We also look beyond the realm of the 22-yards and focus on these games, for the skipper Gyaltson dreams of taking his game to new heights. Let’s stand beside him and help the entire team shaping their dream. Let’s support #icehockeyindia