New Delhi: When 22 Indian players have to seek the help of 1.3 billion countrymen to represent them in an international tournament, you realise the state of the sport in India. With no government funding, no infrastructure, no media coverage, the Indian Ice Hockey Team ride on the sheer will of 22 young players from the Himalayan region of India. They invest their own money, their parents’ savings, the support of their well-wishers, meagre sponsorships to proudly wear the Indian jersey in international arena and force the world to stand up and take note of their talent.
The only saving grace in this dismal scenario has been the generosity of spirit of the common Indian public who have been contributing in crowd funding campaigns to keep the hopes of Indian Ice hockey teams alive, again and again.
When you mention hockey in India, people think it is only field hockey. When you say ‘ice hockey’, most people are not aware that it is played here. Moreover, we have a team representing India at the international level.
In spite of all hardships, the team had managed to register their first international win against Macau in 2012, in Dehradun. They have been participating in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia since 2009, but it was the availability of India’s only international rink in Dehradun that made the victory against Macau possible. The rink since 2012 has been lying closed but it did not deter the team from keeping their hopes alive and participate in the subsequent Asian Championships.
As Harjinder Singh, General Secretary of Ice Hockey Association of India, puts it: “Participation is essential for the growth of the sport. Few wins and we hope the government and Indian sports enthusiasts will be taking note of this sport. Ice hockey being the fastest contact team sport, this winter olympic sport will soon become popular in India. What this sport needs is the attention of investors and it would be as popular in India, as NHL is in North America.”
“We have had a fairly successful championship for Women in Thailand (7-15th March, 2017). For the very 1st Time, the women's team won two International matches to secure 4th position amongst seven teams. Also, Tsewang Chuskit got the Most Valuable Player award in the Championship. We were able to perform well, as we were able to raise funds through crowd funding for Women this year and send the team to Kyrgyzstan for training prior to the Championship,” he said.
This year the Ice Hockey Association of India decided to train Indian Men’s team in Kyrgyzstan for a month for better results before proceeding to the 2017 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia Div-1 for Men in Kuwait. The team has been training hard for a couple of weeks and are quite hopeful of their chances in the upcoming tournament to be held between April 22 to 25. They wish to not only represent India but also come home with a podium finish.
Ice Hockey is an expensive sport. The Ice Hockey Association has spent around Rs 26 lakh for training in Kyrgyzstan. The team have already spent most of their personal funds on training well. Now, with just over four days left before the Kuwait tournament, they are falling short of Rs 12 lakh to participate in the tournament. They need this fund to pay for their travel tickets, visa, equipment and coach.
While the India sports enthusiasts are glued to cricket during IPL, the other sports seek attention including this talented team. In spite of being a national team, the team yet again seek public support for representing India in Kuwait. Most of their equipment have been gifted by friends or well-wishers. Indian ice hockey has been crippled by lack of funds and infrastructure.
“The team now have high hopes for the crowdfunding campaign to raise the required funds for them. We request everyone to donate a small amount of money and help the team to compete with full vigour. The team is also looking for sponsorship opportunities. We request everyone to also share and spread the message so that this is brought to the notice of corporates looking to fund athletes under their CSR initiative,” says a press release from the association.