Nestled amidst the majestic Himalayas, the Nawang Dorje Stobdan Sports Complex Ice Rink in Leh made a historic debut with the recently concluded first chapter of the Khelo India Winter Games 2024. This rink is India's first natural ice hockey arena built as per international standards. Popularly known as the NDS Ice Hockey Rink, it is a testament to Ladakh's dedication towards sports infrastructure. With a seating capacity of 3000, it offers spectators a front row seat to exciting clashes of ice hockey talent. Spanning an impressive 60 meters by 30 metres, the dimensions of the Olympic-sized rink adhere to international standards, ensuring a level playing field for athletes and teams.
After gaining a foothold during the Khelo India Winter Games, there are big plans around the NDS rink. Moses Kunzang, Director, District Youth Services and Sports, UT Ladakh, says, “We are looking forward to organizing similar championships in the future. In fact, within the next 2-3 years, we aim to organize ice hockey as well. Snow skiing is also to be included. Ice skating. Undoubtedly, such a championship will play an important role in promoting winter tourism and winter sports in Ladakh.”
Additionally, the Ladakh administration is in the process of building 20-30 ice hockey rinks of international standards across Ladakh, although the seating capacity may vary. One such rink is already under construction in Kargil. It is learned that the UT administration has earmarked Rs 41.72 crore under the special development package and Rs 9.66 crore from other schemes to complete the NDS rink.
Most of the matches of Khelo India Winter Games were held in NDS Stadium. This national level event provided a platform to talented athletes from states and union territories to showcase their skills and sportsmanship. For Ladakh, the event marks a significant leap forward, providing its athletes an opportunity to shine on the national stage and inspire future generations.
Himachal Pradesh men's ice hockey team captain Sonam Tshering says, “It was a great experience for all of us. We have participated in many tournaments, but this is the best tournament because of the proper ice arrangement in Ladakh.” Hockey rink and excellent ice conditions.”
Amid Ladakh's commitment towards winter sports, the Center of Excellence supported by the Sports Authority of India is expected to nurture talent and promote excellence in diverse sporting disciplines such as boxing, archery and athletics in the region. But Ladakh can really be proud of its under-construction NDS rink, which on February 6 hosted the KIWG ice-hockey final between the two powerhouses of the sport in India – the Army and the ITBP.
The NDS rink is still far from completion but the basic requirements for staging matches are in place. The administration has also received some support. A dasher board, a vital component for player safety around the perimeter of the rink, was gifted by the American Ice Hockey Association and the Canadian High Commission. The dasher board was purchased from Austria, a testament to global solidarity and support for the development of winter sports in India.
Reflecting on Ladakh's sporting journey, Noni Wangchuk, General Secretary, Ice Hockey Association of Ladakh, recalls Ladakh's remarkable achievement in 2016, where Chibra village of Pangong made a Guinness World Record by hosting an ice hockey event at an unprecedented altitude. created. Wangchuk highlighted the important role played by the Dasher Board in realizing Ladakh's sporting aspirations, acknowledging its considerable expenditure and invaluable contribution to the sporting heritage of the region.
Ladakh men's ice hockey captain Stanzin Angchuk says, “Earlier, we have played in Gulmarg, where there was a lack of proper facilities like changing rooms and benches for players and we had to sit on the ice. Recently, we participated in the national There were huge differences between the two championships in the Caja Championships, management, rink, ice maintenance and overall.”
“Here, we have seen members of the Ice Hockey Association and other clubs working hard till 2-3 in the morning to maintain the ice. We are inspired and encouraged to see them and also enjoy playing,” Angchuk said , NDS can now dream of hosting international events in the future.
“We are keenly looking forward to participating in international games held in Ladakh. The Challenge Cup of Asia operates on a rotating basis, giving Ladakh the opportunity to compete whenever it has access to suitable rinks,” he said.
Talking about the difference between natural and artificial ice, Tsewang Choskit, captain of Ladakh women's ice hockey team, said: “There is a huge difference between natural and artificial ice. In 2016, we won the Asia Women's Challenge in Taipei China. Participated in the Cup representing India. At that time, we saw artificial ice hockey rink for the first time and we were not able to control our skates. We were used to playing on natural ice which is hard.”
Year-round training is a major problem in winter sports in India. The lack of all-weather facilities across the country is seen as a major hindrance by players and officials.
Choskit said, “We are from a high-attitude area and we have very good stamina compared to others. The only thing we need to focus on is practicing throughout the year and for that we need the infrastructure. Is.” In terms of equipment because they're very expensive.”
Wangchuk agrees. He emphasizes on making the most of the opportunity given by KIWG. He suggested taking a proactive step by getting the NDS rink completed and operational to ensure year-round functionality. Wangchuk proposed using natural ice for winter games and artificial ice for summer matches, thereby extending the playing season beyond the current limited period of two-three months.
Rajat Malhotra of the Ice Hockey Federation of India said, “The international standard is that whenever you play a game, after each period, you have to re-surface the ice, and for 10-20 minutes. Water has to be poured on the ice. It is not possible here. Artificial rinks, you have cooling facilities and it does not take time to resurface. When this rink will be shifted to all seasons, it will be the best facility. Will happen.” Malhotra said that more such rinks are needed for the development of sports in India.
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