In a historic moment for both the ECHL and the Ice Hockey Federation of India, the Brampton Beast hosted an exhibition game against the Indian national team, a game that would result in a very historic night for everyone involved.
It was definitely a unique event for the fans in attendance. Unlike in any other game, the plan was to split the teams up if the score got too out of hand. After five minutes of action between Brampton and India in their full forms, the Beast would end up forcing the end of the game by a score of a 5-0 with 14:33 still left in the first period.
To help make things interesting, the two teams formed together to make two new squads, Team White and Team Blue. It was a tremendous opportunity for Indian national team players to get a chance to play alongside some professional hockey players, some of whom had even been drafted to the NHL. It was a unique experience for players on both teams, with the thought of the game being a reality just two months ago being a crazy thought.
With nothing but excitement on the line, it wasn’t an overly intense game. It was almost like beer league with an important purpose. Only two penalties were called, resulting in two penalty shot goals by Southern Professional Hockey League forward Gary Mahesh, one of the more accomplished players on the Indian team. But as the thousand people in attendance quickly learned, it wasn’t the actual game play that stood out in the end.
It was the event as a whole.
The lights. The fans. The atmosphere. The smiles. History was getting made, and everyone couldn’t be happier. It wasn’t the actual result that mattered, it was the excitement that the event was happening at all. It showed that hockey can exist anywhere, and that it’s a sport that can bring different cultures together.
Splitting the teams into two new squads really helped spice things up. At times, though, Team White looked in control, grabbing as high as a five goal lead. The Beast players were there to have fun, but they weren’t there to sit back and watch. They wanted to score a few, and they created some tremendous plays. It took a period for the Indian players to really find their grove, and the best of the best really started to show their true talent as the game wore on.
The Beast players were having a great time. They knew how much this meant for the guys from across the pond, as a chance to play with high caliber players doesn’t happen everyday. They made sure to pass the puck anytime they could to them, giving them a chance to show their skills on one of the four goalies, including former Colorado Avalanche prospect Trevor Cann. Some of the Indian players had some beautiful moves up their sleeves, creating some nifty plays to score a few goals throughout the contest.
Team White dominated most of the competition, potting multiple goals in a row at some points. But despite their attempts at pulling away in the game, Team Blue really gave them a run for their money. In fact, with 59 minutes of action completed, the team trailed by a score of 11-10… yet still won. With 36.5 seconds left, Blue got the game tied with a late goal, with former U18 Indian goaltender Gamandeep Singh missing the puck on a diving chance. He’d make a couple quick stops afterwards, but unfortunately for him and his team, standout player Jay Sidhu of the NOJHL’s Cochrane Crunch fired the puck in the net with just six seconds left, giving his team the come from behind victory to win the historic multi-cultural hockey event,
The game itself was a special sight to see, but what happened afterwards will be burned in the memory of everyone who attended the game that night. Everyone was standing on their feet. Everybody on the ice had smiles that extended all the way out to Asia. There were high fives everywhere, fans screaming and cheering, even some of the players were crying with excitement.
After the handshakes, a few players attached Indian flags to their sticks. At first, it was a little confusing what they were planning on doing, but after watching them skate around at full speed, displaying the flag high above their heads, it was clear. They knew how big this moment was. It was almost like they had won the Stanley Cup. It was a historic moment not only for the ECHL or the Brampton Beast, but it was also probably the biggest moment of their hockey-playing lives.
When you look at international hockey, it’s not about the money. It’s not about the fame. It’s not about the luxury or the success. It’s about the tradition, the perseverance, the chance to say you donned your countries colours on a world stage. It doesn’t matter how big or how small. It’s something most people will never get to experience, and for a group of hockey players in a nation that most people didn’t know hockey, they had a night to remember for the rest of their lives.
And that’s what hockey is all about.
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