Kargil (Jammu-Kashmir), Jan.23 (ANI): The 3rd CEC Ice Hockey Championship 2010 is currently underway in Kargil, in Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh region. This year eight teams are participating in the tournament, which commenced on January 15.
The popularity of the game holds significance, as it has occurred despite the fact that for a long time, ice hockey players had no access to proper equipment here. The situation has improved but it's still far from being ideal, a fact which both players and organizers bemoan.
Organizers are delighted to see a good response and increasing popularity of the game but they are lamenting inadequate support to the game here.
"It's quite a problem for our department (District Sports and Youth Welfare, Jammu and Kashmir) and local clubs too, because the equipment that we get is foreign, procured from Canada. So in a remote area like Kargil, we are not able to procure the equipment. Our players cannot do so (on their own) either, because the equipment is very expensive. But even then, they take the game very seriously. Not even the department has such resources that we can give equipment to every player," said Mohammad Ali, District Youth Services and Sports Officer at Kargil.
The game is beset with myriad issues, apart from procuring good equipments the requirement is also for the lack of a professional ice hockey rink, and even basic coaching.
"As far as coaching goes, it's non-existent. It's nil. And coaching is very important," insisted Mohammad Nasir, a national ice hockey player.
He also said that the game is particularly rough. And, this fact makes it dangerous to play without proper equipment and padding.
Ice hockey has been gaining in popularity over the years, evolving from a street-game played wearing make-shift skates - usually army boots with blades attached to them - to organized teams and the creation of a District Olympic Association.
The national ice hockey team also represented India at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia in 2009 at Abu Dhabi.
Local residents and government agencies also believe that ice hockey and ice-skating are big potential draws for winter tourists to the area. They say that the sport can evolve as a major attraction for tourists, as it is played in the Ladakh region at least for six months.
The mountainous region of Ladakh has the country's highest ice-skating rink, situated at 3,483 meters above sea level. (ANI)