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Apr 19, 2015

Indian Ice Hockey team crowdfunds its way to Challenge Cup of Asia

A well-timed social media campaign has enabled a lesser known Indian sport to go international.The team faces five other countries at the International Ice Hockey Federation Challenge Cup of Asia 2015 in Kuwait from 18-24 April.

WRITTEN BY

Supriya Vohra

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The Indian Ice Hockey team has made its way to Kuwait for the annual International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia Division 1. Faced with a cash crunch to participate in the competition the team management took to a social-media campaign which yielded surprising results.

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Akshay Kumar, director of the Ice Hockey Association of India, an autonomous body that manages the sport in India, told The Outdoor Journal, “We launched a Twitter campaign seeking monetary support from people. Within 24 hours the #supporticehockey was trending No. 1 on the microblogging site. People got to know and contributed in whatever way they could. Corporate sponsors also started pouring in. Along with this, campaign on BitGiving, a crowdfunding-for-charity website was also launched and we received a lot of funds from that as well.”

“We have been participating in the Challenge Cup of Asia since 2009. But have always paid from our own pockets, which cannot be done on a sustained basis,” he added.

The crowdfunding effort has received support from over 285 donors from 50 cities ever since its launch earlier this month.

Vedank Singh, digital marketing lead for Ice Hockey Association of India said, “We created a Twitter handle called @icehockeyindia and a hashtag (#supporticehockey). I personally have a number of Twitter followers on @bhaiyyajispeaks. That coupled with the BitGiving campaign helped us gain momentum in a very short amount of time.”

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@Bhaiyajispeaks has over 22,000 followers.

Thanks to social media, national mainstream media like Economic Times  and FM radio stations caught on to the cause, which led to contributions by corporate sponsors such as Mahindra & Mahindra, South India Shelters, Royal Valtrans and Micromax. Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir’s charity Gautam Gambhir Foundation also donated a sizeable chunk.

The team has managed to raise over 25 lakhs so far.

In a conversation with The Outdoor Journal, Adam Sherlip from Long Island in New York, coach of the national team since 2009 said, “Apart from this tremendous support, we have managed to, for the first time, have a two-week practice session right before the tournament, thanks to the ice-skating rink in New Delhi.”

“The team practices during winters on frozen reservoirs and lakes in Ladakh till February, and the Challenge Cup takes place in April. So you have this whole month of no practice, and you suddenly plunge into the tournament. This year, however, we came to New Delhi and had a rink to practice on. It’s half the size of the rink meant for ice hockey, but we manage pretty well,” said an upbeat coach.

The 25-member team is mostly from Ladakh, a high plateau region in Jammu and Kashmir in north India. Enthusiasts from all over the sub-tropical country have to come all the way to Ladakh to practice the game on frozen lakes.

“There are over 2000 registered ice hockey players in India. The success of this crowdfunding campaign shows that people are supportive of this sport. We hope to create better infrastructure across the country to make this sport accessible across the country,” Akshay told The Outdoor Journal.

The IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia is a series ice hockey tournaments amongst non-competitive countries of Asia, with an aim to provide them with competitive opportunities. This year, the games are held in Kuwait amongst six countries – Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, India, Malaysia, and Oman from 18th to 22nd April. The first match was a close one between India and Oman, where India lost in the shootout goal.

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Photos and Video: Shilpi Saluja


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