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Burning passion drives Indian ice hockey team

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For about a few months in the direction of the top of October, the sleepy area of Ladakh springs to life, however the onset of the cruel winters.

Yearly, a sizeable chunk from the tiny inhabitants of round 3,00,00Zero throngs the Karzo Rink in Leh the second the pond freezes to both watch, play or fine-tune their ice hockey abilities. And that features members of the Indian nationwide staff.

Indian ice hockey staff? You would be forgiven for asking this query.

It is exactly this curiosity that gave delivery to the thought of Combating on Ice, a documentary that strives to unfold consciousness in regards to the existence of ice hockey groups within the nation.

“Earlier than beginning the movie, I requested a number of folks whether or not they knew if India had an ice hockey staff. Surprisingly, most of them mentioned no,” director by Mithun Bajaj says.

Ice hockey may be one of the crucial well-liked winter sports activities across the globe and on the Winter Olympics, but its presence and recognition in India is miniscule.

There are diversified causes for that. The pure climate in most components of the nation doesn’t go well with the game, whereas the price of constructing a synthetic worldwide rink is just too steep. Moreover, the gear used within the sport — the skates, head gear, protecting physique gear, sticks, and the like — can even burn a deep gap within the pocket.

“Our sport may be very a lot depending on infrastructure, particularly in a spot like India,” Tsewang Gyaltson, captain of the Indian males’s ice hockey staff, says.

“We want synthetic ice, and to construct all that may be very pricey. Fortunately, we’ve a spot like Ladakh that has very chilly climate, and in addition another locations like Himachal. These place are helped by nature, and in these locations we develop ourselves and try to make a mark,” he provides.

Made a mark it positive has, each the boys and the ladies groups.

Obstacles aplenty

Whereas the Ice Hockey Affiliation of India (IHAI) has been a part of the Worldwide Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) since 1999, the nationwide males’s staff made its worldwide debut solely in 2009, whereas the ladies needed to wait longer until 2016.

Each the perimeters have been competing within the Problem Cup of Asia — a continental championship organised by the IIHF — since then, with the boys ending second in Division I in 2017. The ladies, in the meantime, tasted their first worldwide victory the identical 12 months.

These aren’t headline-grabbing outcomes however contemplating the chances stacked up in opposition to these handful of gamers representing the nation, they’re noteworthy.

Think about this: the ladies’s staff made it to the 2017 Ladies’s Problem Cup of Asia in Thailand solely resulting from a crowdfunding initiative by the IHAI, the place it managed to gather Rs 32 lakh in 10 days. The identical initiative, nonetheless, failed to lift Rs 12 lakh for males’s staff.

“In terms of competing in opposition to different groups, we fall very quick,” the 27-year-old Gyaltson says. “For that, we’ve to do in two months issues we must be ideally doing for six-eight months.”

The 2 months he’s referring to is for essentially the most essential side in any sport — coaching.

With the one synthetic worldwide rink in India (in Dehradun) shut resulting from lack of funds and with coaching abroad being a uncommon luxurious, the nationwide gamers — most of which hail from Ladakh — have to attend until November for pure ice to kind.

“There are a number of villages larger up within the mountains the place we get ice round one month sooner than in Leh metropolis. We try to use that ice. We go to these locations, begin getting ready the sphere, begin enjoying with the ball and slowly choose up from there,” the Leh-based Gyaltson says.

Downside is, that ice lasts for under a few months, and the restricted timeframe has to accommodate every little thing associated to ice hockey within the nation: native tournaments, IHAI nationwide tournaments and choice trials for the nationwide staff.

“By the point all that finishes, the ice is already melting. If there are funds with our affiliation, we try to go to different locations to coach. If there are not any funds, we’ve solely every week to coach collectively as a nationwide staff in Leh itself earlier than we go to competitions,” Gyaltson says.

A ‘particular’ sport

Bajaj went to Ladhak in Janaury 2017 to shoot components of his documentary, and got here again with an even bigger need of taking the topic to the plenty.

“I went there to shoot with the gamers, and in addition travelled with them to a event thereafter. What I noticed was that the gamers are so enthusiastic about enjoying the game, regardless of the challenges they face,” he says.

Gyaltson tries to make sense of that keenness, loads of which rubs off by way of the passion that the Ladakhis show throughout these two months of ice hockey carnival.

“The game has one thing particular,” Gyaltson says.

“For those who watch the game as a spectator, you can be left thrilled. The sport has a powerful coronary heart. That’s one thing you possibly can solely come and see on this a part of the nation after we play right here.

“Folks come out early within the morning within the chilly winters to observe the sport. The temperature could be -20 levels and it may be freezing chilly, however there’s some power that’s making them come and watch this sport.

“Think about, somebody who would not play in any respect has a lot attraction in the direction of the sport. So, when you begin enjoying, you’re feeling all of the extra love as a participant that you simply did as a spectator.

“If somebody watches this sport a minimum of as soon as, he/she is going to go away saying I need to watch this repeatedly. That is the important thing, I really feel. As soon as folks get to know in regards to the sport, they may actually need to watch this sport once more.

“The instance is correct in entrance of you. The climate right here in Ladhak is so harsh, the situations so difficult however the sport is so particular that nearly nothing can cease us,” he provides.

Nothing certainly is stopping the Indian ice hockey groups. Not even the shortage of recognition, not even the shortage of funds, not even the shortage of fundamental infrastructure and coaching amenities.

“That is how we’ve to handle. It is unsure. It is tough occasions,” Gyaltson says.

“However on the identical time, we glance again on the previous, and we see that issues are bettering, although slowly. So, we take these positives and we transfer ahead with the hope of a brighter future.”



  • Present captain: Tsewang Gyaltson
  • First official sport: March 15, 2009 (misplaced to Thailand 14-0)
  • Largest official Win: March 21, 2012 (beat Macau 5-1)
  • Greatest event consequence: Completed 2nd in Division I of 2017 Problem Cup of Asia


  • Present captain: Rinchen Dolma
  • First official sport: March 2, 2016 (misplaced to Singapore 8-1)
  • Largest official Win: March 15, 2017 (beat Malaysia 5-4)
  • Greatest event consequence: Completed 4th in 2017 Ladies’s Problem Cup of Asia


  1. The sport is performed on an ice rink measuring roughly 61m in size by 30m in width.  
  2. Every participant could have his/her personal hockey stick together with ice skates and a sequence of padding which can embody face masks, helmet, padded shorts, shoulder pads, arm guards and gloves.  
  3. Every staff can have a most of 20 gamers. Of those 20 gamers solely 6 will be on the rink at anyone time together with the purpose tender that guards the purpose.  
  4. The gamers hit what known as a ‘puck’. The puck is heavy object produced from dense rubber and weighs roughly 6 ounces. The puck is hit by both a gamers stick or foot however at no level can the puck be dealt with by any participant aside from the purpose tender.  
  5. Every sport lasts for 3 20-minute durations, with the target being to attain extra objectives than the opponent.

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