HK Acroni Jesenice
|Full name||Hokejski Klub Acroni Jesenice|
|Nickname(s)||Železarji (The Steel Workers)|
|Founded||6 January 1948|
|Based in||Jesenice, Slovenia|
Hokejski Klub Acroni Jesenice (English: Acroni Jesenice Hockey Club), commonly referred to as HK Acroni Jesenice or simply Jesenice, was a Slovenian ice hockey team that last played in the Austrian Erste Bank Hockey League and the Slovenian Ice Hockey League. They played their home games at Dvorana Podmežakla in Jesenice. Throughout its history Jesenice was regarded as one of the most successful clubs in Slovenian and Yugoslav ice hockey until September 2012, when the club filed for bankruptcy and was dissolved.
Before the World War II
Roots of an ice hockey in Jesenice go back to pre-World War II, when enthusiasts started skating on a natural ice surface (these days it's a soccer field very near the hockey arena). The name of Karlo Vergles is being mentioned most often with regards to these ice hockey beginnings. In the season of 1940–41 the first amateur team was assembled with simple equipment mostly made in the local steel and iron factory (which is still the main sponsor today). Despite that Jesenice team lost their first game to Zagreb with only one goal.
After the World War II
After the World War II, ice hockey returned to the sports park Podmežakla. And the start wasn't easy. Other clubs had years of tradition to count on and the Jesenice team had a hard time getting matches. Therefore in 1948 an ice-hockey/skating section was formed in the local sport society under the leadership of Drago Cerar. Other people involved included: France Božič, Mitja Verovšek, Vinko Čižman, Pavle Hafner, Milan Marolt and others. This year was also important for the fact that it was the first time Jesenice played in a real tournament against Maribor, Brežice and Celje. Somewhat surprisingly (although not by score) Jesenice team won the tournament.
Development of hockey continued in Jesenice in the following years with the opening of the artificial ice-hockey surface in 1954 which was the first in former Yugoslavia. This also included a spectator area.
In 1956 Jesenice team hired a hockey coach from former Czechoslovakia Zdenek Blaha. This started the jesenice ice-hockey rise. In the 1956–57 season Jesenice won the Yugoslav championship against far more known teams from Ljubljana and Belgrade.
The Golden Age
After winning the 1957 championship Jesenice completely dominated the Yugoslav ice-hockey winning 15 consecutive championship titles. Most coaches in this period were foreign coming from former Czechoslovakia. Notable players in this period include: Albin Felc, Dušan Brun, Bogo Jan, Ciril Klinar, Viktor Tišler, Vlado Jug, Gorazd Hiti, Franc Smolej, Rudi Knez and others.
Before the Slovenian Independence
After 1971 season, the Yugoslav championship was more or less divided equally between Jesenice and Ljubljana. Jesenice won the league between 1956–57 and 1970–71, in 1972–73, 1976–77, 1977–78, 1980–81, 1981–82, 1984–85, 1986–87 and 1987–88. Jesenice also won the 1974 championship but this was later taken away from them by the ice-hockey federation. Notable about this period is that the majority of players came from Jesenice or neighboring cities, a trait for which the Jesenice team is still known today.
After the Slovenian Independence
First years after the Slovenian independence were again dominated by the Jesenice team. Alongside good local players the team was reinforced by some excellent players from former Soviet Union under the coaching of Vladimir Krikunov. This resulted in three consecutive championship titles. However financial and staff problems brought the team to the brink of collapse. The peak of these troubles was the exclusion of Jesenice team from the Slovenian championships in 1988–89 season.
It took a couple of years for Jesenice to bounce back and in 2004–05 season with the arrival of four players from Olimpija (Ljubljana) and most local players once again playing for their home team Jesenice won the championship once again. This was continued with further good play in one of the International Hockey Leagues (including one championship title) and one more national championship title.
As a recognition of their quality in 2006 Jesenice was invited as first non-Austrian team to play in the expanded Austrian ice-hockey championships. From 2006 and until 2012 the club has also won four more Slovenian titles in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Bankruptcy and dissolvement
The club had accumulated debt, reportedly near €2.5 million (approximately $3.161m USD) at the conclusion of the 2011–12 EBEL season), and was eventually expelled from the league. On 31 August 2012, HK Acroni Jesenice filed for bankruptcy and was dissolved. Their affiliate HD Mladi Jesenice were registered and run separately from the main squad. They will continue to remain in existence and continue with their ice hockey school.
The club's ultras group is called the Red Steelers.
- Yugoslav Ice Hockey League: (until 1991)
- Yugoslav Ice Hockey Cup: (until 1991)
- Winners (8) : 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977
- Slovenian Ice Hockey League:
|1963–1966||Jiŕi Pleticha||3 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1966–1967||Rudi Černy||1 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1967–1969||Oldrich Mlcoch||2 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1969–1972||Ciril Klinar||2 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1972–1974||Boris Afanasiev||1 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1976–1978||Vlastimil Bubník||2 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1979–1982||Boris Svetlin||2 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1983–1985||Boris Svetlin||Fired before end of contract|
|1985–1987||Roman Smolej||2 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1987–1988||Vaclav Červeny||1 x Yugoslav Champion|
|1989–1990||Ciril Klinar||Fired before end of contract|
|1991–1993||Vladimir Krikunov||2 x Slovenian Champion|
|1993–1995||Sergej Borisov||1 x Slovenian Champion|
|1996–1997||Paul Arsenault||Fired before end of contract|
|1997–1998||Zdenek Uher||Fired before end of contract|
|2002–2006||Roman Pristov||2 x Slovenian Champion|
|2006–2007||Matjaž Kopitar||EBEL: 5th place|
|2007–2008||Kim Collins||Fired before end of contract|
|2008–2009||Douglas Bradley||2 x Slovenian Champion, EBEL: 2 x Quarterfinals|
|2009–2009||Ildar Rahmatuljin||Fired before end of contract|
|2010–2012||Heikki Mälkiä||Fired before end of contract|
|2012||Bojan Magazin||Team dissolved on 31 August 2012.|
- "HK Acroni Jesenice" (in Slovene). HZS. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- Živa Krušič Gorišek (3 September 2012). "Miha Rebolj: Hokej na Jesenicah ne bo propadel" (in Slovene). Siol. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Toni Gruden (3 September 2012). "Zelo žalostna zgodba, a hokej na Jesenicah se še igra". rtvslo.si (in Slovene) (RTV Slovenija). Retrieved 3 September 2012.
- Martin Merk (3 September 2012). "The end of Acroni Jesenice: Most storied club from former Yugoslavia collapses". IIHF.com.
- Official supporters' website (Slovene)