Of all the places where you can expect an Indian team across any sport to line up, an ice rink would probably be among the last. That comes as little surprise for a country which did not have any ice hockey team until 1989, and is a virtual non-existent force when it comes to winter sport.
Which is why it was nothing short of historic when the Indian women’s ice hockey team – officially formed only in 2016 – played on Canadian soil (read: ice) for the first time on Tuesday, 13 November.
It may not have attracted many – or any – eyeballs back home, but it was considered iconic enough by CBC British Columbia, who decided to do a feature on the Indian team in Canada.
From not knowing women play hockey to actually playing it in Canada. After its first game just three years ago, India's women's national ice hockey team is playing in Surrey. @Jesse_Johnston was there to watch their dreams come true.https://t.co/05uTCpHStb pic.twitter.com/BwYi0mZAIv— CBC British Columbia (@cbcnewsbc) November 14, 2018
Team India featured in an exhibition match in Vancouver against the Surrey Falcons, and are now headed to Calgary to compete at the Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival, or Wickfest.
For a team barely known to its own country, and until now used to honing their skills in the almost-alien confines of the Ladakh region, it was a surreal experience.
"It’s like a dream come true. We’d never thought that we would come to Canada as ice hockey players." - Diskit Angmo, Indian Ice Hockey Player on CBC’s The Early Edition
The Indian women’s tour of Canada is owed to a special invite from Hayley Wickenheiser – a six-time Olympian from Canada, and the winner of four Olympic golds in ice hockey.
Earlier this year, they even met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who lauded their exemplary spirit.
India’s national women’s ice hockey team is breaking barriers, taking on challengers, and showing girls that anything is possible. It was great to finally meet! May your future be bright on the ice and off. pic.twitter.com/YESUNHcPLk— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 24, 2018
Politics aside, today a gathering to show the love of our country, the beautiful game and belief sport can break down barriers and change lives. A celebration of @icehockeyindia and the brave women who play the game in the most remote region of the world Thank you all! #india2yyc pic.twitter.com/wT0tV2Ox6g— Hayley Wickenheiser (@wick_22) February 24, 2018
The attention the Indian ice hockey players get in their own part of the world is barely a fraction of what they’re receiving on this tour to Canada. The team’s trip to Surrey, where they played the Falcons, was aided by a fundraising effort led by local residents Neeru Schippel, Julie Sanghera and Bindy Dulay. Some of the team’s equipment was donated by Wickenheiser.
"We really feel lucky. Countries like Canada, they are looking up to us and taking the initiative to let us know about this sport that is not encouraged in our own country." - Diskit Angmo, Indian Ice Hockey Player on CBC’s The Early Edition
For 22-year-old Angmo and her team-mates, the reality back home might be a cold one – but for the time being, the Indian ice hockey team is finding its dream on Canadian ice. Onward and upward!
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