Spiti valley to host U-20 Ice Hockey national championship in January

A newly developed open-air rink will host the competition...

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

The Ice Hockey Association of India will organise a national U-20 Ice Hockey tournament in the newly built open-air rink in Himachal Pradesh's Spiti Valley in January.

The ice rink, 31m by 61m, made of natural coating of several layers of ice was inaugurated earlier this week.

It is located at an altitude of 3270 metres, the highest in the country and temperatures in winter drop to -20 degree celsius here.

"We are going to hold the under-20 ice hockey tournament in Himachal Pradesh for the first time. It will start on January 27," Ice Hockey Association of India General Secretary Harjinder Singh was quoted saying by IANS.

Singh believes that winter sports will thrive in the valley as it remains snow-covered for more than five months in a year.

"In the coming years, skiing will also be promoted here as locals have talent and excitement. Right now, the children in the age of eight to 20 are being given coaching in Ice Hockey. Some of them will be shortlisted for an advance coaching camp in Gulmarg," he added.

Olympian Skalzang Dorje, an instructor with the Youth Services and Sports Department, also shared the view of Singh and said that Spiti should be the cradle of winter sports.

"There is so much potential... each youngster at an early age picks up a ski board and hits the snow-covered slopes. Every house has a ski blade -- largely developed indigenously -- depending upon the financial status of the family. This 'art' of making blades is being passed on from one generation to another," said archer Dorje, who competed in the men's individual and team events at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Previously a training camp had been organised in Kaza. Even a tennis court was converted into an Ice Hockey rink for experimental purposes.

"Seeing the response of the youngsters towards ice hockey, we have decided to set up a permanent rink this winter," said District Youth Services and Sports Officer Jiwan Negi.

“In Spiti, every child dreams of playing ice hockey. To hone their inherent talent, we have decided to develop a rink of 60 metre by 30 metre size by giving a natural coating of thick layers of ice,” Negi had said earlier.

“Last year the ice hockey session was organized till February 10. This time since the rink has been made professionally, we are hopeful the ice hockey season will last for roughly two-and-a-half months. In this period, winter camps and tournaments will be held,” he had said.