He fell in love with hockey in his early childhood. He believes that culture is the corner stone of the sport. He strives to create better conditions for hockey in this country. Marko Milovanović is the leader of the Serbian Ice Hockey Association and an experienced player who believes in everything he does.
Marko Milovanović, Chairman of the Serbian Ice Hockey Association reveals how he fell in love with the sport, what he finds most exhilarating in this sport and what the potential for developing hockey in Serbia is.
When did you first encounter hockey and when did you fall in love with the sport?
First of all, I wanted to thank you for the initiative to put a hockey-themed interview into your magazine. My story is very simple, when it comes to my first encounter with this sport. I was only three. My father had been playing for the national team for many years and he was the captain of the famous generation of the hockey club Partizan, which won the 1985/86 Yugoslav championship against Slovenian Jasenice – so, you make your own conclusion as to whether I had any choice in the matter. I would be lying if I said I loved it from day one, because when I first put on my skates – when I was three years old, I hardly knew my own name. What I would single out is the friendship, that served as the foundation I built my love of hockey on and later it was maintained by different moments and memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life, which I will be happy to remember.
How demanding is hockey? What is the greatest challenge in this sport?
I would not single out hockey from other sports, in terms of how difficult it is or how many sacrifices it requires. It is an individual matter, depending on what you set as a goal for yourself. The greatest dream of any child on the planet – and later a challenge for the professional hockey player – is to get to the NHL (National Hockey League), then to win the Stanley Cup and have your name engraved into the trophy of Lord Stanley, for all eternity.
What is it that you liked the most in hockey?
I liked the culture of the players in the rink. There are unwritten rules in the hockey community, for instance, during play-offs all players grow beards, you do not celebrate scoring a goal if the opponent has pulled its goalie to even the score, rookies in the team know their place compared to the experienced players, players come to games wearing suits – as hockey is a job, etc.
How do you rate the popularity of this sport in our country, as the Chairman of the Serbian Ice Hockey Association?
I believe it can be improved from where it is today, that this is far from what hockey deserves. It is up to the Association and the clubs to achieve greater popularity, through their work and their results. Sadly, I’d like to reflect on something we encounter every day in our daily papers and on television. I don’t want to criticize, I just believe that we are, ourselves, guilty of not having different content being offered to us.
Is good hockey played in Serbia?
At the moment, in the senior league, Red Star and Vojvodina are successfully competing in the regional league against Slovenians and Croats. Otherwise, when it comes to the younger generations, we have very talented kids who can easily stand up, when it comes to their results, to kids from Russia, Czech Republic, Canada – until the time they are thirteen, fourteen – that’s when the fact that the infrastructure in our country is so inferior to these countries comes into play.
What does a typical workout, important for this sport, look like?
Trainings are classified by stages and it depends on the period in the season. There are preparation trainings (fitness, strength, individual technique), competitive league trainings (tactics) and competitive play-off trainings (recovery and tactics).
What is the direction you have in mind, when it comes to the Association? What conditions for the development of this sport in Serbia should be improved?
The Association’s plans are aimed at further development of hockey. If we want to improve hockey, we have no time to look to the past and comment on the mistakes of those who came before us. What does this mean? It is the obligation of the Association, with a necessary strong support from the clubs, to ensure the best conditions for training and competing for the existing players, with a tendency to recruit new members by increasing the quality of what we offer. Two items are crucial for this – infrastructure of ice rinks and expert staff. In order to have our players develop well, we need to put ice under their feet for at least ten months a year. Currently we have three months in Subotica, six in Novi Sad and seven in Belgrade. As for expert staff, we need continual education at various seminars and congresses abroad. In cooperation with IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation), each year the Association supports continual professional development of trainers, referees, economists and managers at an academy in Finland. Thus, the key objective is to build an ice rink hall and improve the conditions on the existing ice rinks.