More about How Hockey Helps

More about How Hockey Helps

This video was the culmination of many laborious hours (aka weeks) combing through months (aka years) of footage since my initial trip to the Himalayas in 2009.  My incredible team at The Hockey Foundation wanted to make sure we did things right before we were finally ready to share what we consider a very special video. 

"How Hockey Helps" is the product of 7+ years supporting ice hockey in...

The History of Hockey in Shimla

The view in Shimla.

Happy to have another post from Richard Loat, who is travelling with The Hockey Foundation Team currently in 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



 The Hockey Foundation, in partnership with Hockey Tutorial and with a host of sponsors led by Sun Life Financial, is pleased to announce the start of a new season of youth ice hockey development camps in India, which began on January 12, 2016. 

Hockey in the Himalayas?

(question mark intentional)

So many people seem stunned when I tell them about ice hockey in India.  Adding in the explanation that it takes place in the Himalayas makes it both more logical and more alluring, all at the same time. 

The most common comparison people make is to Jamaican bobsled (popularly portrayed in Cool Runnings), and on the surface it's easy to understand why, as both countries are primarily tropical and the associated sports are not native, and not easily performed, within the respective nations.

But that's about it.

While bobsled was a sport that a handful of Jamaicans were able to undertake and compete in, ice hockey is growing in popularity in India, especially in Ladakh, a remote region in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which is sandwiched between Pakistan and Tibet (China).  It's also being played in Shimla, in the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh, on and off in Dehra Dun, the capital of the state south of Himachal, Uttarakhand, and even at a small indoor facility on the border of New Delhi and Gurgaon (Gurgaon is kind of like the Bangalore of North India...corporate parks, call centers, suburbia, middle class & upper class boom, trendy clubs, Western restaurants, and many many malls).

Hockey has been played in India since the British introduced it in the early 1900s (in Shimla), and has been growing in popularity in Ladakh since the Indian military brought it with them in the 70s.  Today, hundreds of Ladakhi children and adults play hockey for 2-3 months every winter, when temperatures in the region are consistently below freezing.  Schools are off during the winter, and tourism is low (other than people trekking the Zanskar River), so hockey has become the literal pastime, the sport that passes time.  But it's become more than that.  It's become a way of life, as so many Americans, Canadians, Swedes, Czechs, Russians and more can understand.

We've interviewed children (boys and girls) and adults about what hockey means to them, and the answers are wonderful.  So many of them remark that hockey has given them confidence, it's allowed them to work together better as a team, it makes them happy, it keeps them healthy.  One women, in particular, said she's happily married to hockey.

This love of the game can't be tought, it can only be noursihed.  The Hockey Foundation strives to not only nourish that love, but to focus the understanding of the game, and to reinforce many of these qualities that so many intrinsically understand once the game captures their hearts and minds.  

We strive to teach not only the young players, but the organizations that ultimately interact with them every day, that they need to work together (organizationally, regionally, nationally), that they need to be accountable for their actions on and off the ice, responsible for their own success, that they need to be resepectful, humble, yet confident, that they need to be tough when necessary, but gentle otherwise, and that they need to have fun!

It's not easy to survive a winter in Ladakh.  There's very little indoor heating and running hot water.  It's cold, all the time, everywhere.  You see your breath when you sleep, you have to use buckets for showers, and bathrooms are either outside or the ones inside don't flush.  There are very few options for food, and not much in the way of entertainment, but there is hockey in one of the most beautiful mountainous regions of the world, with a vibrant history.

Resources are limited though.  Coaches are few and far and getting equipment is both difficult and expensive.  The Hockey Foundation's coaches go with great expense to themselves, not only to travel to Ladakh, but the time away from home not taking in income.  It's a burden in many ways, but one we all feel a calling to undertake.  We also bring as much equipment as we can transport with us, in addition to any equipment we ship to India through the year (more on that in another post).  In the past 5 years, The Hockey Foundation has donated 300+ pieces of equipment throughout Ladakh (Leh and Kargil Districts) and we've coached over 500 children and adults.  This year is looking to be another record-setting year in all measurable categories, and it's with your support that this is possible, so thank you to all that have donated, and to those that have helped in countless ways!