Ice hockey in the school yard


The first unofficial ice hockey game in Macedonia was played in Skopje, in February 1962, in the yard of “Brakja Ribar”, today named “Dimitar Miladinov”.

Will ice hockey revive again in Skopje? Will those beautiful days from the eighties come back when Skopje-Makotex played in the First League of the former Yugoslavia, when the youth of Vardar became vice-champions of Yugoslavia in 1974 at the tournament in Kranjska Gora. Those were the golden days of Macedonian hockey when there were 4-5 thousand spectators at the Skopje-Makotex matches in the stands of the Kale ice rink. At the same ice rink many certainly do not remember, we mean the younger generation, that in 1969 the World Championship was held in Pool C, where the national teams of Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Bulgaria and Hungary played.

Today again a group of enthusiasts, headed by the president of the Hockey Federation of Macedonia Nikola Tasev, is making efforts to form the first Macedonian ice hockey team that would participate in the qualifications for the world championship, the Olympic Games. The games would be played according to a tournament system and championship of Macedonia.

The Vardar hockey club has been re-established, the ice rink of Kale has come to life again, but there are still huge problems to make it all happen, like the lack of hockey gear and equipment, financial resources to hire players from abroad, who originate from Macedonia. But as the Federation claims, the first steps have already been taken, five clubs have been registered, the interest is high among young people, and this gives hope that those good hockey times may soon return.

Perhaps this was the reason to remember those first steps that were taken in Macedonia, in Skopje, when the first hockey club was formed in Skopje in the distant year 1959. The founding meeting was held on February 3, 1959 in the premises of the Sports Union of Skopje, when the board of the new club HK Skopje was elected, headed by the first president, Kiro Cvetkovski, and Panče Leov, vice president. The team was coached by Trajko Trpčevski and Lazo Musmanovski, returnees from Czechoslovakia at the time, otherwise originally from Aegean Macedonia.

It will surely be a surprise for many if we write that those first trainings, in Skopje then there was no skating rink, were held on the frozen lake in the City Park, as long as it was cold and until the ice on the lake melted with the first spring days. There was not enough equipment, the sticks were replaced by ordinary, hand-made ones. All of them didn’t even have skates, they made them from thick wires, which they tied to the shoes so they could slide. The goals were borrowed from the auxiliary field of the City Stadium, where the Vardar players trained playing indoor soccer. At first, various rubber and solid objects were used as puck. They played in sweaters, with woolen hats on their heads.

But still, it was all interesting, the pond was boiling like a hive all day long. Among the first hockey players were Trajko and Tome Trpčevski, Mito Panzov, Stojče Kostenčev, Petre Bojarov, Lazo Musmanovski, Gjorgi Golovski, Duško Samolov, Boško Atanasov, Alekso Popovski, Nikola Stavrevski.

It is certain that the first match held on March 1, 1959 along the shore of the frozen Mavrovo Lake will go down in the history of Macedonian ice hockey. There were even about 300 spectators who came from Tetovo, Gostivar, Debar to see that miracle – hockey on the frozen lake.

Clearly, there was no hockey board installed, the rink was marked with black paint, the spectators arranged around the “court” and returned the puck to the hockey players in the game. According to the writing of “Nova Makedonija”, the meeting ended in a draw 9:9, the hockey players of Skopje played divided into two groups. At that propaganda match on the Mavrovo Lake, the following performed: Duško Mijovski, Dupjačanovski, Nikolovski, Petrovski, Stoilkovski, Mitevski, Rusev, Šalvarinov, Kole Stavrevski, Mitko Dinev, Lazo Šumanov, Maxim Dukanovski, Mile Čemkov, Metodija Ribarovski and Gele Ristančev.

Probably the older residents of Skopje remember the first spectacular unofficial ice hockey match for them, which was played on February 16, 1962 in the yard of the then “Brakja Ribar” elementary school, now named “Dimitar Miladinov”. On the basketball court, with a concrete surface, the participants of this game poured water on it all night, the weather was very cold, about minus 10 degrees, so the concrete was covered with a thick layer of ice. The field was marked, the goals were brought from the auxiliary playground of Vardar, lying benches and tables were placed around the field to play with a “mantinela” (hockey board) and the game could finally be played. Between the hockey players of Skopje in the presence, as it was written in “Nova Makedonija” more than 1,000 viewers followed the game. The final result has not been published. But this time all the hockey players had original skates, they were much better equipped, because some hockey equipment was donated by Partizan from Belgrade.

Until the construction of the ice rink in Kale, the hockey players of Skopje, later on Vardar, trained wherever they could, on the lake in the park, on the Mavrovo Lake, on the free areas in the city that were frozen in winter. There were also comical situations because the ice on the pond in the park was often thin, so players took sometimes unexpected baths in the cold water. But hockey went on and was played. The hockey players of Skopje went to train in Belgrade, at the stadium, with the help of the Skopje Sports Union. At the rink Tašmajdan in Belgrade, for the first time in 1960 they participated in the first official tournament, a kind of qualification for the championship of the former Yugoslavia. They played three matches, they lost disastrously, which is understandable because they played on a normal rink, with a board, under electric lighting. They lost to Avala (Belgrade) with 21:0, Zagreb 17:3 and Celje 13:5.

For these past 50 years since the establishment of the first club in Macedonian ice hockey, there have been successes and failures, it performed not only in the Second but also in the First League of Yugoslavia. Even foreign hockey players played for Skopje Makotex: goalkeeper Andrej Hebar from Slovenia, Šejbal, Metz and Miklosevich from what was then Czechoslovakia. Five players from Skopje also played for Bosnia from Sarajevo: Stradal, Čupevski, Njegač, Belev and V. Atanasovski, today the veterans Gjorgji Grčev plays for HC Bassa in the Czech Republic, Vlatko Atanasov played in the fourth league of France. There were also national team members from Macedonia in the former Yugoslavia: goalkeeper Saško Čupovski was called up for the B selection, Gjorgji Grčev and Vlatko Atanasov played in the youth national team.

Source: Miodrag Mickovic