50 years of hockey in Macedonia – The Czech-Skopje school brought success


In addition to the construction of the open ice rink Kale, the fact that several families of Macedonian origin (refugees from the Aegean part of Macedonia) returned from the then Czechoslovakia at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s of the last century was also a factor in the Macedonian hockey mill. Their children were seasoned hockey players, because in the Czech Republic and Slovakia hockey was, and still is the number one national sport. The Czechs have 11 world golds and one Olympic gold, and the Czech Republic is the European country with the highest percentage of inhabitants who play hockey.

My two brothers came in 1969 to see the conditions, and then we all gathered in Skopje, where we performed until 1989 – says Gjorgji “Irka” Grchev, a real hockey star of that time.

In addition to those brothers (Gjorgji, Vasko and Blaze), the Ainovski brothers (Vasko, Pavle, Hristo) returned from Czechoslovakia, then Kocho Cvetkovski, Gjorgi Trpchevski, Stefce Zalev… The club began to live, young people began to train, and the audience discovered it. Hockey filled regularly the stands (capacity 4,000).

As a child I trained in HK Vardar during those initial golden years of hockey. With my father, we regularly went to watch the matches of the seniors. Whatever the weather was, it didn’t stop us from being in the stands. From that time, I still remember the magical images from the ice rink. We are driving a car through thick dough-like fog. Nothing is visible. As we approached the rink, it loomed up like a spaceship, lit up. And the matches were great, typical for hockey, with a lot of attraction, but also “fights”, and even blood. And we cheered wholeheartedly, we faithful followers, but mostly related to relatives or close friends. In those early years, there were not many “neutral” spectators, although the game with the puck was exciting – says Aleksandar Damovski, former hockey player.


The seventies of the last century were the years of flowering, the seniors slowly laid the foundations, and the young categories came, but not without a “compass”.

HK Vardar in the youth competition was Yugoslav vice-champion in 1974, behind Kranjska Gora – says Gjorgi Grchev.

We were obsessed with hockey. It was also played in the street. The Czech-Skopje school, so to speak, produced excellent results. We were not the junior vice-champions of SFRY by chance. Opponents could not get out of their zone. I still remember Hristo Ainovski’s goal in a tense match with Kranjska Gora, in front of full stands in Kale, fans with flags… – says Hristo Jinlev, one of the so-called second generation, raised in Skopje.

Radomir Stradal, Tommy Atanasovski, Janche Lekovski, Emil Belev, Kosta Tarabunov, Ljupcho Trajkovski, Filip Deckovski, Miro Njegach, Ragulin, Risto Kovacevski, Tomi and Zvonko Nikolov, goalkeepers Sashko Chupevski, Dragan Stojkovic, Loren Gligorov were also in that second generation. In the third is Vlatko Atanasov, who together with Gjorgji Grchev is still active today, because the former plays in France, and the latter in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

The youth arrived and it was played quite well and regularly, in seniors, youths, juniors… There was potential. It was a real euphoria in the 1970s. He was “boiling” from children. That second generation was also the strongest, all with an average age of 18-20. There was equipment from the Czechoslovakia, and Vardar began to nurture the tradition of preparations abroad. The first training took place in 1970 in Frenstad. With those frequent trips, we also learned the Czech language. I remember, we are coming back from the Czech Republic from preparations, the swimming pools are still working, and we come with a lot of equipment and they were surprised that we are coming back from preparations on ice. It was serious at that time, there were sponsors. Sport was given and tolerated a lot, especially in schools. We also received food fees, and the better players also had a salary. There was also income from entrance fees. And the stadium was full, 3-4 thousand spectators. Study, minus 10 degrees, but no problem. Tensions in matches, even fights… Hockey, in one word – says Atanasov, who played for HK Bosna Sarajevo from 1982 to 1988, and from 1988 to 1992 for HK Partizan Belgrade.


The success did not come by chance, because with an excellent plan, in addition to young Macedonians from Czechoslovakia, top experts from that country were brought.

Jan Radić, then 58 years old, and Kominek were our coaches. At the time, Radić was an assistant in the Czechoslovakian national team, when they won a silver medal at the 1968 IOC. He was there for two years. Made a great organization. We all remember him. He had a sharp look. And he knew how to call out to us: “Ale, tso to ye, antihockey.”

When the elders saw this, Partizan took Radić and began to transfer the knowledge to them. However, a good team was created from good and quality training. On top of that, we, let’s say the domestic players, learned a lot from the hockey players who returned from Czechoslovakia, so we reached the top with quality – says Dzinlev.

Published February 21, 2009