Canada’s national game, Ice Hockey, was first introduced to the mountainous Ladakh region in 1962, by Indian army officers stationed in the region to halt the advance of Chinese invaders during the Sino-Indo Border conflict. For nearly 40 years since then, the locals played scrimmage amongst themselves with few skills, rules, coaches or equipment – players used field-hockey sticks, with skates made from army boots with homemade blades. At a dizzying 11,500 feet, Ice Hockey in the Himalayas presents unique challenge – the rink is almost as high as Mt Robson, the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
In 2003, this phenomenon caught the interest of the NHL Player’s Association in Canada. Recognizing the historic interest in the game, they generously donated 50 sets of hockey gear to the indigenous players in Leh. Furthermore, to encourage the game, the New Delhi Canadian High Commission Ice Hockey team, the “Sacred Bulls”, have been traveling annually to Ladakh, since 2001, to play against a variety of enthusiastic local teams in what is the highest altitude hockey tournament in the world.
In 2005, at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, Baiba Auders Morrow & Pat Morrow introduced their 9 minute feature film aptly named “Hockey Night.… in Ladakh” — they hope to go back to Ladakh to shoot a complete documentary film in Jan. 2008 when the New Delhi Sacred Bulls will be returning to Leh for another tournament. [Interesting to note that Pat Morrow is a well known Canadian photographer and mountain climber and was first person in the world to have climbed the highest peaks of all seven continents].