Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (middle, holding “India” jersey) and six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser (right) are among those pictured with members of India’s national female hockey team. (Photo: Twitter.com/wick_22)

India’s national female hockey team coming to Surrey ahead of ‘Wickfest’

Exhibtion game against Surrey Falcons squad on Nov. 13

India’s national female hockey team will play a game in Surrey next week, as a preview of the Wickfest tournament coming to the city.

The team, based in the mountainous Ladakh region of the country, will fly in for an exhibition game against a Surrey Falcons squad at Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex, on Tuesday (Nov. 13) starting at 2:30 p.m. The arena is located at 16555 Fraser Hwy., in Fleetwood.

The event is organized by the City of Surrey and officials with the Canadian Tire-sponsored Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival, or WickFest, which will be played in Surrey from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 2019.

• RELATED STORY: ‘Wickfest’ hockey festival for women coming to Surrey next winter, from March 2018.

“After years of hard work on and off the ice, and thanks to special invitation from six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, the players from Ladakh, India, will arrive in Canada for the first time,” explained a City of Surrey release on Wednesday.

The squad, said to have overcame “strong societal and familial pressures in an effort to grow the game of women’s ice hockey in India,” will compete in the ninth annual WickFest.

“Before heading to Calgary, the team’s first stop is in Surrey, where they will attend a media luncheon and play an exhibition game,” the release states.

Members of the Indian team met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Wickenheiser and other Canadians earlier this year, as part of efforts to grow the game in that area of the world. Photos are featured on the team’s website (india2yyc.com) and Twitter account.

A video of the players in action is posted to the India for Sports account on Youtube.

In March, organizers of Wickfest announced details about the hockey event coming to Surrey, after several years of operation in Calgary.

“The Calgary event currently hosts 120 teams, with more than 200 applying each year for the event. It was time to grow into new markets,” a city-issued press release said at the time.

“The economic impact for the City to host WickFest is significant as approximately $1.25 million will be injected into the local economy in both 2019 and 2020, with a projected impact of $2.8 million annually in the years that follow,” the release stated.

An estimated 50 teams will take part in the hockey festival in Surrey, from as far away as Atlantic Canada and parts of the United States.

The purpose of the tournament is to create an “international summit” of the female game for girls of all ages and skills levels, explained Wickenheiser, a multiple gold-medalist with Canada’s national women’s team.

“Surrey was a natural fit for us,” Wickenheiser stated in March. “The city has great facilities now, and even better ones coming online in the coming years, and it’s a hockey-hungry community in the Lower Mainland. Surrey is a city with vision and a gold medal spirit, so we were naturally drawn to that.”

The tournament includes several off-ice components, including clinics and workshops “that don’t just focus on developing the athlete, but developing the attendees who take part off the ice too,” Wickenheiser added.

More details can be found at wickfest.com.

In a post on the website’s “news” section, Surrey Falcons president Gary Mizuno said the organization is excited to collaborate with the WickFest team and Wickenheiser, “who has been the face of women’s hockey for decades and a remarkable role model for young players from coast-to-coast. This is an incredible opportunity to bring to Surrey one of the premier female hockey events in the world, and to showcase female hockey in the Lower Mainland.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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