Playing Ice Hockey in Ladakh

Experience ice hockey -25 degree temperature at 12000 feet.

Comments (18)|10 Liked It

Ice Hockey is the national sport of Canada and countries like USA, Russia, Finland, Germany, Poland are the biggest ice hockey playing nations in the world. The land is ice-capped for several months at a stretch, and ice hockey can be played even without the use of artificial rinks. Still, some of these countries have had artificial rinks since 17th century.

Though ice hockey is unknown as a sporting event to most Indians, people from areas like Shimla, Kashmir and Ladakh in India, which have traditionally cold climates, are slowly warming up to ice hockey since the past 2-3 decades, after the Indian Army posted in the high altitude border regions took up the game and popularized it by playing annual winter matches in Ladakh.

Ladakh Winter Sports Club organizes the National Ice Hockey Championship since 2001 in the last week of January – and it’s a big local event. The tournament takes place at Leh Karzoo Ice Hockey Rink, an open air ice rink situated 3,474 m above the sea level. The game is very demanding at this altitude. 

Many ex pats from the Canadian and Russian consulates in Mumbai and Delhi have been playing the game in Ladakh for the past few years. Playing in – 20 degree centigrade at the highest Ice Hockey rinks in the world  attracts and thrills them. They participate in matches at Leh with the locals. In the following video, the Montreal Canadians Ice Hockey coaches travel to the remote village of Domkhar in Ladakh to teach the mountain villagers the game of Ice Hockey.

The matches have caught the imagination of Ladakhi men and women, both young and old. But these aspirants  face many challenges: lack of money, lack of infrastructure, including equipments, warm clothing, skating boots, guards, etc. The only place in India where something minimal is available is Shimla, a small hill station in the northwestern part of India.

The love for the new sports has driven the local Ladakhis to improvise with what is available. They get the ice skating blades from Shimla and nail them to the army ammunition boots, wearing several layers of socks inside. Security equipments like helmets or elbow and knee pads are not available to them. Instead of using the special equipments, roller skating and ordinary ground hockey sticks and pads are used. Thick rubber heels of the army boots are cut to a rounded shape and used as pucks. Minor accidents while learning and practicing are not unknown, but people shrug it as inevitable and carry on, regardless. Often, seeing the enthusiasm of these people, the visiting tourists from abroad gift some of their equipments when they go back.

The love of the Ladakhis for ice hockey has been immortalized in movies. For example, “Frozen” (2009) and “One more…” are feature films shot in Ladakh by Shivajee Chandrabhushan. The film “One More...”  traces the journey of an amateur, but passionate, ice hockey team from Ladakh to the ice rinks of Russia.

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has recently made an English-Punjabi, ice-hockey-themed film Break Away that showcases the struggles faced by South Asian immigrants.

Similarly, Thin ice is an internationally financed documentary about girls in Ladakh, who want to play Ice Hockey. The video that follows shows snippets from the film. Watch the video: I loved the verve and the enthusiasm of the girls. It’s infectious.

Dolkar, a young Buddhist woman from Ladakh and her friends wish to play ice hockey, and get equipment and coaching. When they want to participate in the annual Hockey tournament they face opposition. The men in charge, the board of the winter sport club prefer ice dance from the girls, not ice hockey. They travel over the mountain to the Muslim village Kargil and create a joint team. The Buddhist and Muslim girls have to fight for their rights both on the ice and off the rink.

Let’s hope that in the years to come, India becomes a formidable player on the global ice hockey scene.

Read Also

Ladakh: Nature’s Abode in India

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  1. Posted October 7, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Great piece Uma I never new they played Hockey up there
    Best Wishes

  2. Posted October 7, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Posted October 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Ice hockey, you need to be quite skilled in skating first to try for this game, or you’ll end up hurting your own butt. :D Nice share.

  4. Posted October 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Interesting. You are truly a versatile writer.

  5. Posted October 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm


  6. Posted October 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    What an interesting article. I used to date an ice hockey player and go to all his matches. Loved every game. It’s a fascinating (and dangerous) sport.

  7. Posted October 7, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Thank you for this.

  8. Posted October 7, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Ice hockey is a lot of fun to watch. Thanks for sharing this new-found sport in your country.

  9. Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:20 am

    very nice and informative share

  10. Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:37 am

    This was awesome. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

  11. Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Thanks a lot for this ;)

  12. Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Although, I’m not fond of ice and snow and never mind below zero temperatures, I’d say it’s an interesting piece to read.

  13. Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Nice posting about hockey, Uma

  14. Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I found it fascinating to learn of ice hockey in India. Ice skating is becoming more popular here in NZ, maybe ice hockey will as well. How wonderful the Canadians are helping.

  15. Posted October 9, 2012 at 4:52 am

    very nice

  16. Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:47 am

    nice to know that Indians have another sports to involved in. I only know India is the top Cricket playing country. Thanks for sharing this interesting info, Uma.

  17. Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:32 am

    I always love your work. Thank you for this article

  18. Posted December 23, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    great info. thanks for the share

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