Even after having the highest mountains and some of coldest places of the globe our nation seems to be lacking far behind in global map of Ice hockey. Depressing it became to learn that in the recent Ice hockey U20 Challenge cup of Asia our team scored the last position. Other teams participating here were Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines and UAE.
The tournament was organized under the aegis of International Ice hockey federation (IIHF). The IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia gives Asian countries that are not in the World Championship program, or that play in the lowest division, a chance to compete. It shall also help develop hockey in Asia and help rank the Asian teams in view of the seeding for the Asian Winter Games.
Encouraging it was learning that nations where not even the weather conditions promote a sport like Ice Hockey, have made it to such level. But totally discouraging for our nation which figures nowhere in these U 20 seeding.
Ice hockey as sport is being perused in parts of country since half a century. Due to favorable weather conditions Ladakh and Shimla are considered abodes for the sport. Even Uttrakhand has areas favorable for promotion of the game. Yet the result in this tournament suggests that yet a lot of work has to be done for promotion of this sport.
“The most important thing is proper planning and development of infrastructure for the game,” stated a player of the recent U20 ice hockey team on condition of anonymity. He said that here there is acute lack of infrastructure required for promotion of the game. He said that to produce good talent all year rinks are required. “And rinks with international dimensions, he added. As one of reasons for losing in this tournament was that our players took time acclimatizing with the dimension of the ice hockey rink, though we were not far behind from our opponents in the quality of the game,” he summoned.
“However here even if some infrastructure is developed, it is done in a way that nobody can benefit of it,” rued an ice hockey enthusiast Abhay. While stating example he said that an all weather rink in Dehradun, which was incepted in 2010 but closed down in 2012 as ice skating sports could not find any takers in the place.
He said that if an all weather rink is developed in Dehradun or any other place in the plains of the country e then it would not help. Reason that masses of such areas are hardly acquitted with this sport and thus such ice sport facilities would not find any takers. He said that if such a rink would have been created in Shimla or Ladakh, then perhaps could have been beneficial for development. “As these places have ice hockey enthusiasts who understand the sport and want to pursue it,” he suggested.
Sources state that in the early eighties an ice skating rink was attempted in Delhi, which too met the same fate as the Dehradun one.
They state that countries like UAE and Philippines started developing infrastructure for this sport in early eighties. “That’s why they have made it to such level today,” added sources. The same league is to be followed but in a planned manner as ice hockey is played in only 3-4 states of our country. And thus infrastructural development should also happen on same lines. If we start today then it shall take at least 10 years to groom the right talent for achievement at Asia level.” Though world championship would still be distant dream, they summoned.
Role of the association
Ice hockey association of India (IHAI) is the body responsible in the country for promotion of sports. As per the website there are 11 members in this association.
Association states that efforts are being done for promotion of the sport. They say that even the Dehradun rink was committed to be opened by the current Union government in May 2015 session, but nothing happened. Adding that the central/state governments should also invest on building infrastructure for this sport, as they have done for other sports.
Usually it has been witnessed that central/state government invest large sum of amounts for development of sports which are commonly played in the country. Ice hockey since is played in a very limited area of the country especially states which have very small stakes in the national scenario, thus tends to get ignored by center and state governments, rued skating enthusiast Vikram.
He says that when one knows that there is lacking the infrastructure, then would why a team be sent to represent the Nation. Instead first prepare and then take it forward so that team performance can be more graceful, he suumoned.
However sources allege that even this association like many others in the country is being governed through political or influential stakeholders who while sitting in Delhi cannot feel the pulse of the game. In teams section of the website National team listed is of Team India – CCOA 2015, Kuwait, which says it all.
Sources further state that in lack funding even players have to invest from their pockets for representing the nation in such tournament. They even state that in such scenario eligible talent tends to get ignored thus deceating the entire objective of representing the National flag.
Selection procedure under scanner
Players inform that there is no laid down selection procedure for the National team. As players have to invest from their pockets to attend such tournament, therefore even the selections come under scanner.