Frozen wallets

India’s ice hockey team hopes to melt hearts online, seeks to crowdfund trip to key tournament

India's ice hockey team has taken to social media in a bid to raise Rs 12 lakhs to participate in the upcoming International Challenge Cup.

Surprise No 1: Despite its mostly soaring temperatures, India has a national ice hockey team. Surprise No 2: the squad has been regularly participating in international tournaments for more than six years. What isn't surprising, though, is the fact that the team ‒ like many other non-cricket sports in India ‒ is facing a money crunch before an important international tournament.

This has forced the squad to go  online to solicit donations so that it can travel to Kuwait to take part in the Asia division leg of the International Ice Hockey Federation Challenge Cup, which starts on April 18. The players in the squad have already contributed Rs 20,000 each but the team needs to raise Rs 12 lakhs more to make it to the tournament. They have been urging supporters to donate anything from Rs 100 up to Rs 1 lakh.

So far, though, only about Rs 62,000 have been raised from 39 donations.

The team has been unsuccessful in securing sponsorships. "We have tried, but have been completely unsuccessful in getting any corporate sponsorship. Right now we are targeting HNIs [high net-worth individuals] and angel investors," Akshay Kumar, director of the Ice Hockey Association of India told the Economic Times.

 

Tweet to the rescue

As the date of the tournament approaches, the association has been trying to gather support on  Twitter. “Yesterday, the hashtag #SupportIceHockey was trending nationwide and many people noticed us,” Vedank Singh, the Ice Hockey Association of India's digital marketing lead, said on Sunday.

 

Singh further added that many influential people have come forward to support but the team is still awaiting its first sponsorship contract. “Even [businessman] Anand Mahindra called us up and assured of support after he noticed the tweets,” Singh said. “We are hopeful that he would contribute as we are still short by more than Rs. 3 lakh.”

Even though the sport has a relatively small following, ice hockey is played enthusiastically in cold places such as Shimla and Ladakh. The sport came to India during British colonial rule and has been nurtured by the Indian army.

Today, much of the team is composed of army personnel and members of the Indo-Tibetan border police, along with a smattering of students. They are currently training in the skating rink of the Ambience Mall in Gurgaon. The facility is only one-fourth the size of an Olympic ice-hockey surface but it is the best option available to the Indian team.

“We had to start the funding process because nobody noticed us,” Singh said.  "Popular games like cricket take away all the limelight and glory.”

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