Strug­gles of In­dian Ice Hockey Na­tional Team

Har­jin­der Singh (Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia) and Tse­wang Gyalt­son (Na­tional Team Cap­tain) share the achievements as well as the pain for a sport with ALIVE.

Alive - - Content - by Jimmy

In­dia is a coun­try where cricket is re­garded as a re­li­gion and the play­ers are seen as real he­roes. But it's also a place where a rag­tag team of 22 men are fight­ing to put up a su­perb sport, ice hockey, on the in­ter­na­tional map.

Ice hockey is a game played be­tween two teams, each usu­ally hav­ing six play­ers, who wear skates and com­pete on ice rink. The ob­ject is to pro­pel a vul­can­ised rub­ber disk, the puck, past a goal line and into a net guarded by a goal­tender, or goalie. Ice hockey is less pop­u­lar in In­dia but, it has be­come one of the most pop­u­lar in­ter­na­tional sports due to its speed and fre­quent phys­i­cal con­tacts. The game is also an Olympic sport and there are more than a mil­lion reg­is­tered play­ers world­wide per­form­ing reg­u­larly in leagues.The game is very pop­u­lar in Canada es­pe­cially and it is the na­tional game of Canada.

No gov­ern­ment fund­ing, no in­fra­struc­ture, no me­dia cov­er­age. In­dian Ice Hockey Team rides on the sheer will of 22 young In­dian play­ers from the Hi­malayan re­gion of In­dia. They con­trib­ute their own par­tic­u­lar cash, their folk's in­vest­ment funds, the help of their good wish­ers, piti­ful spon­sor­ships to gladly wear the In­dian shirt in the uni­ver­sal fields. And force the world to stand up and take note of In­dia's tal­ents. And climb the lad­der of rank­ing one tour­na­ment at a time. The only sav­ing grace in this dis­mal sce­nario has been the gen­eros­ity of spirit of the com­mon In­dia pub­lic who has been con­tribut­ing to crowd fund­ing cam­paigns to keep the hopes of In­dian Ice Hockey Teams alive. When it is men­tioned about hockey in In­dia, peo­ple seem to be well-aware of it as it’s our na­tional game. But, when it is dis­cussed by about the ‘ice hockey’, most of the masses are not aware that it is played here. Let me aware you about it that we have ice hockey team and it rep­re­sents In­dia at the in­ter­na­tional level also.

The his­tory of ice hockey in In­dia is al­most 100 years old. The game that time was sup­posed to be the favourite pass time for the Bri­tish in Shimla. And still, now the Shimla Ice Skat­ing Club is ac­tively pro­mot­ing ice sports in the coun­try. In the early 1970s, a bat­tal­ion of the In­dian Army, the Ladakh Scouts took up the game after be­ing posted there. The high Changth­ang Plateau's frozen streams

and high al­ti­tude lakes make the re­gion an ideal place to play ice hockey, and as a re­sult, the game spread amongst the army. The game started gain­ing more pop­u­lar­ity in the re­gions as more num­bers of matches started tak­ing place in the re­gions.

The In­dian na­tional ice hockey team is the na­tional men's ice hockey team of In­dia and it is con­trolled by the Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia and a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion

(IIHF).It is played mostly in the places like Shimla, Ladakh and Kash­mir. Achievements

In­dian Men’s team de­buted in IIHF Chal­lenge Cup of Asia in the year

2009 at Abu Dhabi. In­dia has been a reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pant in the Chal­lenge Cup since then and also had the priv­i­lege to host the IIHF Chal­lenge Cup of Asia in the year 2012 at the only In­ter­na­tional fa­cil­ity in Dehradun. Tak­ing the home ad­van­tage, In­dia se­cured their first In­ter­na­tional win at Dehradun. In 2016, IIHF Women's Chal­lenge Cup of Asia Di­vi­sion at Chi­nese Taipei- Ms Noor Ja­han got the best Goal Keeper cham­pi­onship award. In 2016 IIHF Men’s Chal­lenge Cup of Asia Di­vi­sion at Kyr­gyzs­tan- Mr Ali Amir got the best De­fense­man cham­pi­onship award. The In­dian men’s Ice Hockey team fin­ished run­ners-up in the 2017 In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion Chal­lenge Cup of Asia in Kuwait City. In 2017 IIHF Women’s Chal­lenge Cup of Asia at Thai­land- Asst. Cap­tain Ms Tse­wang Chuskit got the most valu­able player cham­pi­onship award.

Har­jin­der Singh, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia talks to ALIVE

Ex­cerpts:

What you would like to say about the team's achievements so far?

It al­ways feels glad after ev­ery suc­cess story of the game. The per­for­mance level of the team is in­creas­ing year after year and the team had shown their po­ten­tial of play­ing a game in any cir­cum­stances.

In­dian ice hockey is not at­tract­ing a large num­ber of peo­ple here. What are the rea­sons ac­tu­ally?

It is not be­cause of any sin­gle rea­son, there are a lot of rea­sons for this. Ice Hockey has not been able to gen­er­ate that kind of fol­low­ing as the sport is lo­calised to only a few states in North In­dia, but is a ma­jor sport played prac­ti­cally in most of the Vil­lages in Ladakh. They play on the Nat­u­ral formed Ice rinks. This sport is also not favourite to the Sports Chan­nels in In­dia. Though, the Ice Hockey League (NHL) in North Amer­ica is the 4th most money grosser and top viewed sport in North Amer­ica.

Lack of In­fra­struc­ture, ex­pen­sive equip­ment be­comes a de­ter­rent to kids to take up this sport. The Only In­door In­ter­na­tional Size Ice rink in In­dia is at Dehradun and it’s ly­ing shut since 2012. In 2015, Mr Sar­bananda Son­awal gave as­sur­ance to Ra­jya Sabha that they will help the Ut­tarak­hand Gov­ern­ment to recom­mis­sion the closed In­door Rink of In­ter­na­tional stan­dards at Dehradun. But it didn’t work yet.

What are the prob­lems the team is go­ing through?

The first is place for prac­tice. The out­door rink in Lad­hakh re­gion is only avail­able for 2 months in a year and also the rinks are with no dasher boards. Sec­ond is prac­tice kits and equip­ment. There is not even a sin­gle re­tail out­let for the sale of Ice hockey gear in In­dia. Play­ers use do­nated Ice hockey gears or the have to buy when­ever they or their friends or rel­a­tives go abroad. The third is the proper diet for play­ers.The fi­nan­cial con­straints ham­per the sport a lot. Till 2013, play­ers and their fam­i­lies used to con­trib­ute to­wards buy­ing an air tick­ets to par­tic­i­pate in In­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments. Since 2014, Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia has been mak­ing ef­forts to raise funds through crowd fund­ing, Spon­sors and var­ied stake hold­ers of Ice hockey in In­dia use their own per­sonal funds. Crowd fund­ing has not been a suc­cess each time and then the As­so­ci­a­tion has to use per­sonal funds of the of­fice bear­ers to train and send teams abroad.

Presently, what sup­ports the Ice Hockey team is get­ting from the gov­ern­ment?

Gov­ern­ment of Jammu & Kash­mir has twice given 50% of the air ticket fare to the Women’s team. As the

sport is a sub­ject of state, the Min­istry of Sports shows very less in­ter­est and all kinds of funds and de­vel­op­ment is as­sured by the state. As a Na­tional Sports Pro­mo­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia be­ing a win­ter Olympic Sport does not get that kind of sup­port what a sum­mer Olympic Sports or any other sports get as Na­tional Sports Fed­er­a­tion.

What kind of helps you need from the gov­ern­ment?

The Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia should be treated at par with other Na­tional Sports Fed­er­a­tion for an­nual ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­port, funds to con­duct na­tional cham­pi­onships and train­ing pro­grams.There should be a proper fo­cus on this win­ter sport alike all oth­ers sum­mer Olympic sports. The Gov­ern­ment should pro­vide a proper in­fra­struc­ture for this sport. The sub­sidised land should be pro­vided to help the pri­vate play­ers who are com­ing for­ward by show­ing their in­ter­ests in the game. The Gov­ern­ment should pro­vide some special quota for ad­mis­sions to the Ice Hockey play­ers. Also, the fa­cil­ity of job reser­va­tion should be pro­vided for the play­ers of Ice Hockey. The cus­toms duty on im­port of sports gears for Ice Hockey must be scrapped. Gear for Ice Hockey is ex­pen­sive and ad­di­tional cus­toms duty makes it more ex­pen­sive.

Ear­lier, at the time of IIHF Asia Cup Chal­lenge 2017, do­na­tion cam­paign was started for the team. How much it was ben­e­fi­cial?

We were able to raise suf­fi­cient funds through the crowd fund­ing for Na­tional Women’s team but were barely able to raise Rs. 2.5 lakhs for Men’s team against the pro­jected ex­pense of Rs. 45 lakhs.

It’s heard that some Bol­ly­wood celebri­ties and sportsper­sons shown some in­ter­est to­wards this game and do­nated to help the team. Is it true?

Yes, it is true that some emi­nent per­son­al­i­ties have shown their in­ter­est to­wards the sport and has do­nated to the team. In­dian crick­eter Gau­tam Gamb­hir was the first sportsper­son who came for­ward for the help and do­nated Rs.4 lakhs in the year 2015. Some other per­son­al­i­ties who contributed were Mr Anand Mahin­dra, Mr Rahul Sharma of Mi­cro­max, Mr Mo­hammed Ali from South In­dia Shel­ters, Royal Val­trans and Mr Ra­jni

Pa­tel, and Mr RameshTau­rani of Tips Mu­sic. Ac­tu­ally, none other than me do­nated to the team on the reg­u­lar ba­sis and I am not any pub­lic fig­ure.

What about the next match?

The next game of men’s and women’s team is sched­uled on March 2018.

They will be seen gear­ing up for the Cham­pi­onship to be held in Malaysia.

A talk with Na­tional Ice Hockey Team Cap­tain Tse­wang Gyalt­son

Ex­cerpts:

Tell some­thing about your early life...

I have spent my child­hood in Leh only, my fam­ily is a na­tive of Leh, I have com­pleted my school­ing from Ladakh Pub­lic School and after that, I moved to Farid­abad and Dehradun for my fur­ther stud­ies.

Since when you are play­ing Ice Hockey and what at­tracted you to­wards this game?

When I was in Sixth or Seven Stan­dard, I had hockey tri­als for the first time wear­ing skates. I vis­ited sev­eral times to see the sport in pop­u­lar ‘Kar­zoo rink’ at Ladakh after in­spir­ing from it I joined the skate-hockey classes con­ducted by Ladakh Win­ter Club. So I re­mem­ber it was around 2005 when I started play­ing the sport.

How does it feel be­ing a part of the Na­tional Team?

Ob­vi­ously, be­ing a part of the na­tional team is a mat­ter of pride for ev­ery­one and since I started play­ing this game I used to work hard to be­come part of the team. When some peo­ple play­ing with me were se­lected in the team after that my wish was in­creased. Now, I want to play this game till my fit­ness al­lows.

What dif­fer­ences do you see com­par­ing Hockey and Ice Hockey in In­dia?

Well, I have never played field hockey but I can say for sure that ice hockey is a lot faster than field hockey and the peo­ple watch­ing the play are also seems very ex­cited. I have also heard from my fa­ther and my se­niors that in the old times when the gear of Ice Hockey was not avail­able then the game was played us­ing the equip­ment of field hockey.

What are the things ac­cord­ing to you that the team should work on?

One of the ma­jor prob­lems we are fac­ing now is that we are not get­ting a proper time to prac­tice due to lack of fa­cil­i­ties or in­fra­struc­ture. We are de­pen­dent on the nat­u­rally formed ice in Shimla and Ladakh which oc­curs only for around two months.

If we will get some ar­ti­fi­cially pre­pared rinks for our prac­tice the thing will be turned bet­ter for the team.

Which is the best Ice Hockey team in the world and what fa­cil­i­ties they are get­ting in com­par­i­son to the In­dian team?

There are a lot of good teams in the world of Ice Hockey, and the good thing for them is that they do not have to feel as­pired on the weather like us. We also have an in­ter­na­tional level fa­cil­ity Rink in Dehradun but after the match of a sea­son, it has been closed since around 2011-2012. Also, in other coun­tries, the fa­cil­i­ties of Rinks for prac­tice are avail­able at dif­fer­ent places.

Who is your favourite player in pro­fes­sional Ice Hockey sport?

There are three or four play­ers in the game to whom I fol­low. Ear­lier, it was Dustin Brown and Patrick Kane whom I used to fol­low and nowa­days Eric Pla­son is my favourite charts.

How do you see the fu­ture of the Ice Hockey in com­ing years?

The per­for­mance of the team has been very good in the re­cent two-three years and it will be a favourite sport for the youth in the com­ing years. And once again I would like to re­mind that if we will get three or four proper Rinks for the prac­tice than the con­di­tion will be very favourable for us and pos­i­tively we can stand with the top­most team of the sport.

Any mes­sage would you like to share with your fans?

I would like to say that ice hockey is fairly spa­cious and it is played in many coun­tries like the USA, Canada, Europe, Rus­sia, etc. along with the Asian coun­tries and this is a very in­tra-sport­ing sport, I want to ap­peal to the peo­ple of In­dia that please search about Ice Hockey on so­cial me­dia and know more about it and I be­lieve they will like this game.

IIHF men in Kuwait.

In­dian Ice Hockey Team

Har­jin­der Singh, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Ice

Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia.

Leh Na­tional Cham­pi­onship.

The In­dian men in ac­tion.

Team In­dia Cap­tain Tse­wang Gyalt­son with 2nd place Tro­phy 2017 in Kuwait.

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