DEHRADUN, India – Ice hockey in India took another step as the first ice arena in the country will soon be completed.
Hockey in India started in the late ‘80s and the sport is mostly played in the Northern part of the country close to the Himalayas.
Last year, 4,000 fans attended the national championship at an open ice rink in Leh close to the border to Tibet.
Instead of boards, stone walls marked the rink and instead of advertisements there were banners like “Don’t sit around heaters at home in 20°C. Come out and play ice hockey in 20°C below.”
The first-ever Indian national team was formed following last year’s national championship to play in the 2009 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in Abu Dhabi where they finished in last place.
That could change in the future as an ice arena with an Olympic-size rink is sure to boost the development of the sport. The construction of the rink was promised at the championship last year and what often seemed like a dream at the time will become a reality soon.
The arena will include an Olympic-size ice rink, a small practice rink and a swimming pool. It is located in Dehradun in the Uttarakhand state, a 450,000-inhabitant city 230 kilometres north of New Delhi.
It’s planned that the arena will open its gates in late May or early June. It will serve a region of one million people.
Jukka Tiikkaja, the IIHF’s Tokyo-based Asian Sport Development Manager, visited the arena earlier this month and presented valuable information about how to run the rink effectively.
While India is taking a step forward with the arena and showed interest in hosting the Challenge Cup of Asia next year, the national team’s trip to this year’s event had to be cancelled.
Nine teams will participate in the event that takes place from March 29 to April 4 in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei. The other teams are United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Singapore, Macau and Kuwait.
“With the record number of registered teams, we are looking forward to the growth and development of the sport in Asia,” said IIHF Vice-President Shoichi Tomita. “In its efforts to support the work done by the 14 national member associations, the IIHF established an office in Japan in September 2009 to coordinate and assist in the execution of local and regional activities in Asia. We believe that in a long-term the sport has a change to enjoy some of the success recently seen in Europe and North America.”
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