Kaza in Spiti to host U-20 Ice hockey tournament on Jan 27

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Photo by- Lara Tsering

Kaza, Dec 25

It will be for the first time in the state of Himachal Pradesh that a U-20 Ice hockey National championship is proposed to be organized here January 27 onwards, informed Gian Sagar Negi ADM of Kaza, the headquarter for Spiti valley. 

After the inception of a natural ice skating rink in Kaza last year, this tournament shall bring upon new hopes for Ice hockey in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Though not confirmed officially, yet the rink is stated to be operational at 3,720 meters above mean sea level, which is probably the world’s highest natural Ice rink. Himachal Pradesh has the distinction of having the only natural ice skating rink in entire South East Asia at Shimla since 1920.  

A Ice hockey camp for local kids was concluded in Kaza. Photo by : Lara Tsering

While announcing in a public ceremony on occasion of conclusion of a Ice hockey camp for local young kids, Harjinder Singh, General Secretary of the Ice hockey association of India stated that tribal headquarter town holds massive potential for winter sports in the state. Adding that if there is collaborative effort done, ice skating sports can excel here. He said firstly the youth from the area can benefit from it and secondly even the economy of the area will also get a boost during winters. Therefore to encourage the sport, we will try to hold an under 20 Ice hockey tournament here by January 27,” he added. However the same shall be finalized after working out the logistics of the event concluded the general secretary of the association.

The Ice skating rink in Kaza came up last year after passionate efforts by the local authorities here. The rink is made up to international hockey standards with dimensions 31mx61m. At 3720m it is perhaps the highest natural ice skating rink in the world.

“Ice Skating as an activity would not only groom talent from this tribal area but also would help keep children away from drugs, etc, who otherwise do not have much activity in winters here,” had stated Gian Sagar Negi, ADM of Kaza last year.

Kaza rink- Hope for Himachal

Before this one, Shimla based natural ice skating rink has been grooming Ice skating talent from Himachal Pradesh. However, climate change and growing population have decreased the skating period drastically in the state capital since the late nineties, which has also resulted in lesser talent production here. Evident it is as repeatedly since years the best skaters in the country as well as the best ice hockey teams are being witnessed from other states. 

Talk of skating period the Capital rink caters to around 4 hours of skating per day (2 hours of morning skating and 2 hours of evening skating). The period of skating is mostly December mid till February Mid (Barely 60 days). And even this schedule is not permanent, as weather can play spoilsport anytime. Also read: https://himachalscape.com/rough-ice-ahead-of-skaters-in-shimla/

Therefore, slowly talent has been fading from here. Broadly, due to lack of practice, infrastructure, and motivation among the enthusiast and newer generation(s). Thus slowly putting HP low on the position tally of Ice Skating sports. An instance the last National Ice Hockey championship was won by Himachal Pradesh in 1997; thereafter ‘Devbhoomi’ never figured as a competitor for the title in this game. 

Drawing motivation from the Ladakhi rise in Ice Hockey

Whereas contrary to Shimla, in Ladakh winters last from October to April, of which, November to March could be considered as skating friendly time. Realizing the potential in the nineties, even this high altitude city started witnessing increased Ice Skating prominence. The writer recalls that while participating in an ice hockey tournament in Leh, on an off day, the team got lucky to play ice hockey on a frozen water pool next to the road. Taking cue even their respective government (then J&K government) clubbed with defense forces and local associations started building –up and soon the Ladakh flag started figuring on the top of most of the Ice Skating related sports. 

Perhaps the Kaza ice skating facility, like Leh, also has a very high potential for Ice skating sports. Like Ladakh, the temperatures are optimum in Spiti valley, and here too Skating can be expected full day from November till Mid march at very less cost. “Scope for honing of Ice Skating talent is high here especially when kids here have no other sporting activity in winters, stated Varun Dawar, a veteran Ice Hockey player,” a local from Kaza. 

Besides even skaters from other parts of the state can also benefit the facility to groom skating talent from the state, feel many other Ice hockey players of the state.

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