Team India made history simply by stepping on to the ice at the Powerade Centre on Friday night. The Brampton Beast introduced each member of Team India by name, and had both the Indian and Canadian national anthems sung in front of a crowd with Indian-Canadian fans in attendance.
After the pre-game festivities concluded, they dropped the puck, and in under five minutes, the Brampton Beast were up 5-0. This brought into play a special protocol, whereby the game was paused, and the teams were combined in order to form two more evenly matched teams.
The game is now Team Blue vs Team White. This means India's players are now playing alongside the Beast's players. #IceHockeyForIndia— Brampton Beast (@BramptonBeast) October 9, 2015
During intermissions, two groups performed traditional Indian dances, and the Beast made an effort to celebrate the community's Indian ethnicity. Team White lead for most of the game, but in the final two minutes, Team Blue bounced-back to score two goals, and tie the game 12-11.
Team India coach Adam Sherlip was very happy with his squad. "I'm really proud. It's a unique opportunity to be the first, and current coach of the team. It's something I don't think I've fully grasped what that means, but nonetheless, I'm extremely proud and excited to see where this team can go," he told EOTP.
It has been a long process to get to last night's game, and the coach was happy with the way it all worked out. When asked how he was feeling after Friday's game: "Most relief, I've been running mostly on adrenaline and caffeine for the last week. I'm just happy it's done and I can breathe. It was a wonderful experience, making sure the players were having fun, my coaches were having fun, and it looked like the Beast players were too."
"I just have a bunch of contentment, now I'm just trying to chill out and enjoy the night."
So, what comes next for Team India?
"We were hoping to get the team to Calgary and Vancouver, but it's looking like we're going to have to put that off until next year. But I'm going to plan my next trip to India, and maybe even see if we can get a women's team going soon."
Team captain Gary Mahesh of Vanderhoof, British Columbia echoed his coach's sentiments. "It's a tremendous honour. I've been playing hockey since I was 4 or 5, and up until two weeks ago, I didn't even know India had a hockey team, so once me and my brother found out, we knew we had to do it."
"The experience out on the ice was great, we had a great group of guys. I though the language barrier might be an issue, but everybody in the world speaks hockey; the jokes are the same, the comradery is the same, everyone just came together throughout the week."
Mahesh also mentioned his plans to help get the Indian national program developed and established. "It's definitely something myself and my brother want to get involved with. We want to be part of the hockey foundation. It was such a privilege we were able to grow up with the Canadian dream playing hockey, and it's great that people around the world are able to share that dream and we definitely want to develop that."
The Beast may have ended the initial competition quickly, but this was a big step towards the development of hockey for India. Just to have the team on the ice against a Canadian team will go a long way into getting Indian youth into the sport, and hopefully there will be more to come.