The Slovenia Times

Jesenice's Trophy?



The reason behind the expected turnaround in fortunes is a sudden shift in power. Namely, after Olimpija's 10-year domination, Jesenice finally got their act together, secured a bigger budget and formed a "dream team" that has yet to lose a match this year, be it in the national championship or the Interleague, which this year was contested by teams from Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia and won by Jesenice. Ice hockey's national championship used to be the most watched team sport in the late 80's and early 90's and the finals attracted as many as 8000 people to the Tivoli and Podmezakla rinks, respectively. Jesenice used to dominate the sport in those times, however, there were some epic games as Olimpija tried unsuccessfully to bring the trophy to Ljubljana. For a while, during ice hockey's golden era - shortly before Yugoslavia broke up, teams from Croatia and Serbia (Medvescak, Partizan, Crvena zvezda, Vojvodina) would also field strong teams (mainly with players from Slovenia) and Medvescak and Partizan even became champions on two occasions. What followed was a lack of money in Jesenice, which meant that they were no longer able to field a competitive team and, in 1995, Olimpija finally became national champions for the first time since the early 80's. However, Olimpija's dominance had a devastating effect on the public's perception of ice hockey in general. Slovenia used to be a destination for foreign players from both Eastern Europe and the NHL. This soon changed and players, including many Slovenians, started to head towards Italy, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Sweden, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden and USA. Currently, 28 Slovenians play in other countries. Some, whose seasons with their respective teams abroad have finished, have decided to come back for the finals in order to help their former teams. One of them is Ivo Jan, one of the best Slovenian hockey players of the last decade. After much speculation, he has opted to join Jesenice, which could prove vital to the outcome of this year's national championships. Jesenice have dominated the season, however, things have become much closer in recent matches and a great spectacle is almost guaranteed.


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