Ice Hockey in Ladakh: Time to fly on ice

By Stanzin Angmo Leh, Feb 10, 2014
Leh :
A sport first played in Northern Europe in around 1990, which was developed from the famous field hockey. It was, at the beginning, adopted only by countries with cold climates like Canada, USA, RUSSIA, etc. but with the rapid gaining of popularity it was adopted by many other countries with an artificial ice. Now, Ice Hockey is a national sport of Canada and is widely a popular sport in countries like Finland, Germany, and Poland etc.

In India, Ice Hockey was introduced by our colonial country almost 100 years back in Shimla, which has always been a hub of ice sports’ equipments for Ladakh even now since a long period. In Ladakh the sport was first brought in by the Indian Army after the independence. Since then it was like that dormant volcano which erupted around a decade back and now it’s it has almost grabbed every young feet in Ladakh. Most of the player in Indian National Team comprised of players from Ladakh and they have been getting many opportunities to play at international level.   
One of the fastest sport in the world, as you skate with the blades beneath your feet, you are practically flying without wings. It is this feeling that has been attracting more people towards the sport, besides the sportsmanship spirit and the rush of competition. Around late 90s, Ice Hockey had already been widely adopted by the people of Ladakh so much so that many clubs were formed among which Ladakh Ice Hockey Club is the first and only registered club which was established way back in 1995. Taking the advantage of the freezing climate of Ladakh where we can easily have a natural rink, the club has been successful in promoting the sport immensely by organizing many district as well as national level ice hockey championships. They have been organizing the tournaments in collaboration with LAHDC Leh but they merely get support from the Sports Council of Jammu and Kashmir.

Initially the participation of women in the sport seemed absent, but gradually they are coming forward with the initions from women teams of SECMOL and Lalok. Ladakh Winter Sports club have also been training young feet for the future as they invite two foreign coaches every year to train them. The participation in the training session increases every year.

Though the sport has been gaining its popularity rapidly and many tournaments have been organized at the National level, still Ladakh lacks a good rink and availability of equipments which is expensive.  Right now all the tournament are being played at a small frozen open pond in Karzoo Leh, where thousands of spectators come to watch it but they have a great difficulty due to no proper place for them to enjoy the game. We will see many audiences hanging from the available trees around the pond, some balance themselves on the walls of the houses around and some even stand in a cluster on a weak roof of an old single mud room. LAHDC though had a budget of 7 crore to make an international level ice rink, but due to lack of more funds it could not complete the project. President Ladakh Winter Sports Club N.A. Gyapo talking about it said, “An international level rink needs around 24 to 25 crore of funds and LAHDC didn’t get more than 7crore.  Now we are planning to take over the project of the rink by signing an MOU with LAHDC to complete the project. The club will collect funds from organizations like Ice Hockey USA and we also have ice hockey ambassador Toni from Canada who will help us with the funds collection. So we hope that within next 5 or 6 years the ice hockey stadium will be ready, which will have the size of international Ice Hockey rink.”

Highlights of the tournaments of 2014

Like the previous years this year as well Ladakh Winter Sports Club organized interesting tournaments on all local, national and international level from the first week of January. Every year we can see more and more national and foreign participation. This year two national teams each from Haryana and Maharashtra and two teams of Canada visited Leh to enjoy the sport at a height of 11,000 ft.

In the ‘Under 20 Inter Club Ice Hockey Tournament 2014’ eight local clubs participated out of which Tip-Top Club defeated Lalok Club by 7-1 in the finals. Unfortunately there were no girl’s team who played in this tournament.

The National ‘Senior Ice Hockey Championship 2014’ was organized by Ladakh Winter Sports Club in collaboration with Ice Hockey Association of India. Ten men’s team which included team from Haryana and Maharashtra as well and five women’s team competed against one another for the title. In the men’s final, Ladakh Scout Regimental Centre (LSRC) put up a brilliant performance and won the gold medals by scoring 7 against 3 goals by J&K Red team who won the silver, while ITBP team won the bronze. In the women’s final, J&K Red team won the gold by defeating Ladakh Winter Sports Club (LWSC) team by 4-1, leaving LWSC with silver and J&K Blue with bronze.

Indo-Canadian Friendship Ice Hockey Cup held on 19th Jan had total of four teams, two from Canada and two from India. Team World White defeated Delhi Bulls, both Canadian teams, by 3-2.  In the tournament two of the oldest players Weip, 73 of Delhi Bull team and Saint, 69 of World White team were honoured with mementoes to play at the altitude of 12000 feet from the sea level.

The 7th CEC Ice Hockey Championship 2014 started on 27th Jan, organized by LWSC in collaboration with Dept. of Youth Services & Sports. In this 8 local teams of men and 3 teams of women will be competing for the cup. On the opening day Ladakh Scout Regimental Centre (LSRC) competed against Skara Club in which the former won by scoring 5 goals against 2 by the later. The final match is scheduled to be held on 3rd of Feb at Karzoo Ice Hockey rink.

As the winter passing by, one should grab every opportunity to skate before the ice melts. As one of a great American ice hockey player and coach Herb Brooks once said, “Great Moments are born from great opportunities.”