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Great success

A remarkable story about hockey

Slovenian athletes have written countless incredible success stories, even when the circumstances were not perfect. Twenty years ago, one of these stories was written by two Slovenian hockey legends – Nik Zupančič and Tomaž Vnuk.
Hockey as a traditional Slovenian sport has been most strongly represented by the rival clubs from Jesenice and Ljubljana, the two biggest hockey centres in Slovenia. In 1998, Tomaž Vnuk and Nik Zupančič played for the Austrian club from Feldkirch, competing together with the Slovenian teams in the Alps Hockey League. The season of 1998, when the players from Feldkirch won the title of European champions, went down in the history of this small town in Voralberg.   Moreover, Vnuk and Zupančič’s performance contributed to the success of Slovenian hockey in times when players from Europe were not that common in the NHL.

Twenty years on, our journalist interviewed Vnuk and Zupančič in the arena where club hockey recorded its biggest success. When asked if he often reminisces about that crucial game, Vnuk replied: "Although quite some time has passed since then, I can still vividly remember the finals in Feldkirch. Hockey fans were euphoric, the team was excellently prepared ... everything simply fell into place at the right time. We were keen for the games to get started and then we did our best. It was truly a great season, nothing went wrong. We were convinced till the very end that we had what it took to succeed, and we nailed it."

Vnuk was captain for Ljubljana's Olimpija, which had excelled in the Alps Hockey League for two seasons, before moving to the Austrian club. "I got an invitation from the club in Feldkirch. They must have noticed that I could be of some help to them." 

Hockey team twenty years ago.

Vnuk was captain for Ljubljana's Olimpija, which had excelled in the Alps Hockey League for two seasons, before moving to the Austrian club. "I got an invitation from the club in Feldkirch. They must have noticed that I could be of some help to them." Vnuk was soon followed by Zupančič from the Bled Hockey Club. “Experts in Voralberg noticed my good performance, “said Zupančič, explaining that it happened "just as I was thinking of quitting hockey and going back to school due to the financial difficulties that my club in Bled had.  The phone call from Feldkirch was a turning point in my life. Memories of those times still warm my heart. Back then the Slovenian national team was also very successful. The transfer to Feldkirch was a breakthrough in my career. Many great things happened to me afterwards as well.   I got the chance to play in some of the strongest leagues in Europe." "Nice memories", concluded Zupančič who has been coaching the Feldkirch team since last August. Vnuk is currently the sporting director at Olimpija. "The club is completely different from its former self. Our performance is not as good as it used to be, but what is important is that we are getting better and better.