Special thanks to Richard Loat for this post on his first day in Shimla in this 2016 tour of India.
In the 1920s the British had turned the mountains of Himchal Pradesh into a summer hill station that was the envy of all in India. Lord Blessington who owned a big home overlooking the valleys below had a tennis court which during one fateful winter froze. That day he had an idea which sparked a culture of ice sports in Shimla that has lead to one of India’s oldest pockets of Ice Hockey.
India is a country where hockey falls to the bottom of the sporting list in most corners of the country but in the Northern States where elevation, cold weather, and a few pioneering hockey enthusiasts came together has spawned a hockey culture that is growing from season to season.
The Hockey Foundation’s trip to India in 2016 is about continuing the work that was started but also reaching parts of the country that we haven’t been able to support before. With donations of equipment from cities across Canada and the United States the Foundation has been able to support the 150 young players that base themselves out of the Simla Ice Skating Club.
Hockey has found a home in many states across India including Jammu & Kashmir, Himchal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, and even as far south as Kerala.
Since late 2009 hockey in the country has taken off along with the formation of a National Ice Hockey Association and the creation of a national team which recently returned from a trip to Eastern Canada where they played exhibition games against Brampton’s ECHL team, the Brampton Beast.
As the 2016 hockey season for The Hockey Foundation gets underway, unlocking the rich history of ice hockey in this country can be like finding hidden gem after hidden gem. Whether it’s the strong presence and support for female ice hockey in Ladakh, or the ice caretaker in Shimla who has been making the clubs ice for over 50 years, the sport holds an important place.
It is support from across the international hockey community that allows The Hockey Foundation to do the work that we do from major NHL clubs to local hockey communities that are bringing smiles to the faces of children thousands of miles and time zones across the world.