Members of the Indian Ice Hockey Association and Brampton Beast signed the international game agreement at Brampton City Hall. (via Brampton Beast)
The Brampton Beast will be taking place in an ECHL first in October, as they host Team India in the league’s first international contest. For India, it will be a historic game, as the club comes to North America for the first time to play against a professional team.
For the first time in ECHL history, one of the league’s clubs will be facing off against an international team, but it’s not a nation you’d expect.
When the Brampton Beast take the ice Oct. 9 for an international exhibition contest, Team India will be lining up as their opposition. The historic matchup between the Beast and India was officially set Tuesday at Brampton City Hall, when Brampton GM Cary Kaplan and India Ice Hockey Association director Akshay Kumar signed off on the agreement.
"We want to shed light on hockey in India," said Kaplan. "When India has over 10 ice rinks built and the team is playing at a higher competitive level, we hope that people remember October 9th as the day Team India played the Brampton Beast and as the day that ignited a passion for ice hockey in India as well."
Though he wasn’t front and center when it came to signing off on the agreement, it’s hard to say if the historic game would even be happening at all were it not for Adam Sherlip.
Sherlip, 31, is the first and only coach India’s hockey program has ever had and it was his idea to get Team India over to North America in order to grow the nation’s program. Early attempts to get an exhibition off the ground were stymied, but a chance encounter with Jibin Joseph from Donald Brashear’s company, Brash 87, turned into a connection with the Brampton Beast, which has led to this monumental game.
“I thought this game was the best way to get involved with Indian ice hockey — to connect with the Beast and if we put together an event,” Sherlip said following Tuesday’s announcement. “(Joseph) connected us and Cary and I have spent two months to try and get it all together, and myself and the Indian Ice Hockey Association tried to get it together on the Indian side, as well.”
And Sherlip isn’t kidding when he says this process has taken a considerable amount of time. His first contact with Joseph came in May, he said, but it took until September for the details to get hammered out. While the announcement is a one-day event and the game will be over in 60 minutes, the lead up has taken nearly half a year.
Thanks to the Beast, the members of the Indian team that will head to Brampton for the exhibition have already found some accommodations, but one of the greatest difficulties has been securing travel for the players.
“Finding the flights has been a big challenge,” said Kumar. “We’ve somehow managed to do that because it’s a big opportunity for our players to come over to see what hockey in Canada looks like.”
Only roughly a dozen players will be coming from India to compete with the rest of the roster being comprised of skaters selected via a tryout, details of which will be announced later this week, according to a release.
There’s good reason for Team India to be the club coming to take on the Beast, as it serves a great purpose for both organizations. The Indian team will get exposure, the players will gain some notoriety and it will grow the sport in India. A portion of all sales from the ticket packages, which can be purchased through bramptonbeast.com, will also go to the India Ice Hockey Association. And for the Beast, it’s a game that could greatly appeal to the community.
“Brampton is the largest South Asian community per capita in the world outside of India,” Kaplan said. “The Beast are a brand new team — we’re in our third season. We’re affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, but it’s growing that reference…We want to attract new fans to our games, so we’ve got a two-game package where you come to the Team India-Brampton game and then a second game in the regular season.”
Business aspect aside, though, Kaplan realizes just how much this could help alter hockey in India for future generations. He believes the game will have an impact and this could open the doors for the Indian national team to play across Canada and in the United States. If nothing else, there’s certainly the chance that another game in Brampton could be on the horizon.
“For us, this is like coming to the temple of ice hockey,” Kumar said. “We watch Canada play, we know what it’s all about and what the difference is here. If we can make this an annual event, it will push people a long way in wanting to perform in our country so they can be selected to our national team.”