The hockey fairy tale in Macedonia lasted during the 70’s and until the middle of the 80’s. After Vardar’s youth vice-championship title in SFR Yugoslavia in 1974, stagnation followed. In the beginning of the 80s, the team relegated to the first league, but due to an administrative failure, the team was not allowed to play in the elite league. However, after playing in the second league for a long time, in 1985 it reached the First League, but now as HK Skopje Makoteks.
That club was re-formed in the meantime, because HK Skopje was renamed in HK Vardar in the 60s, so this renewal was like its “resurrection”, and it was helped by the then powerful sponsor, the company “Makotex” (Makoteks). The players from Vardar slowly left in the ranks of HK Skopje.
The company was financially powerful, but also with a desire for success. Top players were brought in during those years. It all started with the goalkeeper Andrej Hebar from Ljubljana (Slovenia), and the Czechs Scheibal, Metz and Miklosevich were also brought in – explained Hristo Dzinlev, a former hockey player.
With these reinforcements, plus the old “Skopje” guard, a strong team was created, which did not respect any opponent. We still remember the games in Skopje, but also the victories away from home, like over the mighty Kranjska Gora in Slovenia.
Before the disintegration of Kranjska Gora, we beat Kranjska Gora 10-7 away, and Medveščak Zagrebn 11-6, then Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) Belgrade at home with 17-1, remembers Mirce Janevski, who was the team’s manager from 1980 to 1988.
But conditions were getting worse. You couldn’t make a living from hockey. People were slowly starting to look for work. That’s how the team weakened.
Even after 15 years, the skating rink remained open without a roof. Thus, we trained on the ice only for 2-3 months, and the others team had ice times for seven-eight, even nine months. Like it or not, over the years, no matter how good you are, you will fall out of shape. We went to preparations in Czechoslovakia, when before that we had a break of six months – says Vlatko Atanasov, one of the most talented hockey players of that time.
After 30 years of hockey, Macedonian ice hockey went downhill
We had progress, we had a team, we had players, both local and from the then Czechoslovakia. But Macedonian hockey broke up due to lack of money, and until then, until 1988, we played in the First League. We took the breakup very hard. All of them practically stopped playing suddenly, except for one or two guys. At that time there was not much money in hockey, we all got busy with some work and everything died down – says Gjorgji Grchev-Irka, a real hockey star of that time, with bitterness in his voice.
In 1988, the youth team of HK Vardar Skopje did not travel to two away games, in Sarajevo and in Belgrade, so the seniors were suspended.
Before the game in Skopje versus HK Partizan Belgrade half an hour before the start, we received a telegram that we were suspended. The players of Belgrade, however, came out on the ice and we played a friendly match. That’s how competitive hockey stopped being played in Macedonia – explains Grchev.
Fourth part of the reading series/published 2009