In a previous blog – ‘Breaking Convention at the Olympics’ – ice hockey (a very close contender) didn’t make it to the list. Although not so common sport in the tropical zones, it is an extremely popular sport in all the colder regions. Places like Canada, The United States, Russia, Sweden, and France are very competitive and obsessed with the sport. The sport made its debut in the Olympics in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium.
Canada and Hockey: A special relationship
Ice hockey is the National Sport of Canada! In 2010, over 1.3 million adults and 500,000 children participated in this sport in Canada. The sport has been around since the 18th century when most stick and ball games started, but began adopting a structure only in the early 19th century.
The Stanley Cup
The Stanley Cup or La Coupe Stanley is the oldest trophy in North American sports. Lord Stanley of Preston was appointed as the governor-general of Canada in 1888. He and his family took great interest in the game of Ice hockey and donated the trophy giving rise to the most important of leagues in the country. This led to the establishment of “Hockey Canada” and “National Hockey League” (NHL) in the coming ages. Now the Stanley Cup is given to the champions of the NHL playoffs.
The Rules of the Game
To score, the players must hit the puck (4-inch diameter) across the line. The international court is 60m x 30m. The game starts off with a faceoff. There are 8 faceoff points on the court. There are a total of 20 people, out of which 6 from each team play at a time, with 3 forwards, 2 defenders and 1 goalie.
The players are allowed unlimited substitutions at any given point in time. The game time consists of three 20-minute periods. On the occurrence of tripping, kneeing, or interfering, the team is punished with a time penalty and one less player. Players skate at speeds upto 50 km/h, thus making it the fastest team sport on the planet. The sport even ranks very high in terms of difficulty as it requires a high amount of muscle coordination and quick reflexes.
The other reason why the sport becomes interesting is that it allows players to fight each other. Although it is a controversial issue that usually results in broken teeth, it adds to the element of thrill in the game.
India’s Little-Known Ice Hockey Team
India’s ice hockey team is controlled by the Ice Hockey Association of India and is also a member of the International Ice hockey federation(IIHF). Ice hockey made its way to India through the British in Ladakh in 1989. It was the favourite pastime of the Britishers in Shimla. Ice Hockey is played in parts of West Bengal, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Ladakh, of course. Several international players come to Ladakh to play and test themselves on its difficulty as a result of its high altitude. There are several artificial courts in Dehradun as well. In 2018, the women’s team competed in Alberta and made its debut. Actor Akshay Kumar’s movie “Speedy Singhs” helped shed some light on the sport in the country, and he donated ₹2 crore to the sports body.
However, there are a lot of hardships that are faced by the players, and the country lacks due to the lack of funding for the sport. Most of the equipment is refurbished or borrowed through fundraisers as the equipment is very expensive.
Funding aside, what do you think can elevate Indian Ice Hockey to the next level?
Let us know in the comments!