In the middle of the 60s of the last century, the city of Skopje received the organization of the Ice Hockey World Championship, C-Pool (third world league). For the purposes of the championship, in the second half of the seventh decade of the last century, the construction of the skating rink under the Kale fortress began. That was the beginning of the birth of quality Macedonian hockey, which had its golden age in the following two decades, with a climax in the mid-80s.
Macedonian newspaper “Nova Makedonija” from that time reports on the progress of construction and the completion of what was called the “ice stadium”, before the very beginning of the championship, which was played from February 23 to March 1, 1969.
As we know the rink now, it was like that even then, although even at that time there were announcements that immediately after the end of the World Cup, it would be finished and the open rink would be turned into a closed one, so that its work would not depend on the external weather conditions.
The lifelong dream of all generations of Skopje hockey players, to build at least a roof on the rink, remained unfulfilled. It is difficult to maintain a high level, if you train on the ice for only 2-3 months – remembers one of the best Macedonian hockey players, Vlatko Atanasov.
SKOPJE – SOUTHERN MOST HOST OF IIHF WC
Thus, open, the “ice stadium” became a curiosity, because it became the southernmost open ice rink in Europe. Moreover, Skopje became the southernmost host of a World Cup in ice hockey. It was all a small miracle, because in 10 years we went from playing on a frozen artificial lake and on lakes in the park in Skopje, to the organization of the World Championships.
We were very happy when the rink was built. We, the hockey players, were engaged in that World Cup in all segments, as recorders, presenters, judges for penalties… The organization was great – says Mici Stanishevski, an active hockey player at the time, and later a federal referee.
On February 21, 1969, two Belgrade teams played the first match at the new ice rink. HK Partizan defeated OHK Belgrade 15-1 (3-0, 4-0, 8-1).
WC started two days later, and the national teams of Japan, Bulgaria, Denmark, Switzerland, Hungary and the Netherlands played. The championship was followed by 70 journalists, there was a modern press center at that time, complete statistics were kept on goalscorers, assists, penalties…
The first two places in the third world league were won by Japan and Switzerland with eight points each and they were placed in the B-group. Behind them were Hungary with six points, the Netherlands and Bulgaria with four each, and the last was Denmark with no points.
Interestingly, Switzerland, Hungary and Denmark are in the strongest group of world hockey today, so Skopje somehow comes as a stepping stone for them.
THE BEGINNING OF A HOT LOVE
During that period, before the World Championships, HK Skopje became HK Vardar, the team continued to play, but finally, after 10 years, on their own ice. Thus, ideal conditions were created for the beginning of a beautiful hockey story.
The enthusiasm of the 60s turned into a burning love in the 70s and 80s.
Published February 20, 2009