Montreal (Canada): The Indian ice hockey team will conduct their first tour of North America when they visit local outfit Brampton Beast in Montreal next month.
Brampton Beast, an affiliate of top National Hockey League (NHL) club Montreal Canadiens, plays in the second tier East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The Indians will play the Beasts at the Powerade Centre here on October 9.
Brampton Beast president and general manager Cary Kaplan is hoping that the tour will help to increase the popularity of ice hockey in India.
"We want to shed light on hockey in India. When India has over 10 ice rinks built and the team is playing at a higher competitive level, we hope that people remember October 9 as the day Team India played the Brampton Beast and as the day that ignited a passion for ice hockey in India as well," Kaplan was quoted as saying by the Brampton Guardian on Friday.
Ice hockey does not enjoy a strong following in India although the sport is popular in the Himalayan region of Ladakh.
The majority of the players in the 22-member Indian squad belong to the army and para-military outfit Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Lack of proper training and equipment has led to poor performances at the international level with the Indian team managing to win only one of their 18 matches -- a 5-1 thrashing of Macau in 2012.
Indian head coach Adam Sherlip hoped that the visit to the Greater Toronto Area would benefit his players.
"We're really thrilled to connect India's national team to one of Canada's largest east Indian communities and help develop the program in a great hub of hockey," he said. "The hope is that this game is a success so that we can continue to do games like these in the future."
Sherlip will include about 10-12 players in the Indian team for the tour, and will hold try outs for the remaining spots in the coming weeks. The coach is also looking for Canadian players with an Indian background.
Sherlip, who has also coached the Chinese team, is impressed by the players he has seen in India.
"They love the game no different than we do. They live for hockey. For their two to three-month winters the only thing they do is play hockey everyday. If they don't have equipment, they find ways to make it," he said.