Rich sports history and international success of the club
KHL Medveščak Zagreb was established in 1961. At that time, the home of today's popularly named Zagreb's Bears was the open-air skating rink Šalata, until they moved into the newly built Ice Hall of Dom Sportova in 1972.
Throughout its years, Medveščak has won numerous sports awards and achieved its biggest international success in the late 80's and early 90's. One of the reasons for the rise of Medveščak at the time was the generous sponsorship of construction giant GRO Vladimir Gortan, whose name the team added to its title, calling them KHL Medveščak Gortan Zagreb from 1986 – 1991. Thanks to Gortan and the founder of the Gortan company, Zdenko Gradečki, who at the same time became the president of Zagreb's club, Medveščak had quality players from Slovenia, USA, and Russia on their bench who had no problem facing off against top teams from Italy, Austria, and France, and were trained by experienced Russian coach Anatoly Kostryukov. In the 70's Kostryukov spent four seasons coaching Russia's Traktor, with whom he achieved the greatest success in the Soviet history of that club in 1976/77 by winning bronze at the Soviet Championship. He was also the assistant coach to Viktor Tikhonov during the time when the Russian national team was winning Olympic and World golds.
In the 1989/1990 season, the Bears played in the quarterfinals group in the Champions Cup, which was held in Zagreb, while in 1990/1991 they played in the semifinals group and finished in third place. During the so-called „Gortan era“ Medveščak won three titles as Yugoslav champions and four Yugoslavia Cups.
After the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the independence of the Republic of Croatia, things went quiet on the Croatian hockey scene, while the Bears, despite the difficult times, continued to win national titles. From 1995 until 2007 they won 11 titles in a row as Croatian Champions, having won the title 19 times to date.
In 2009 Medveščak skated back into the international rink under the leadership of team president Damir Gojanović, who was an active team player at the time and a once member of Croatia's hockey representation.
On 15 May 2009, the team was accepted into the regional Erste Bank Ice Hockey League! The league consisted of teams from Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, and Croatia! The Bears' main goal in their premiere season (2009/2010) was to make it into the playoffs. However, in the quarterfinals, they proved that they were ready for much more than just qualifying for the playoffs, and made it all the way to the semifinals in their debut season in the Erste Bank Ice Hockey League. The following years in EBEL were equally successful the 'new-old' Medveščak. In the 2010/2011 season, they were cut short in the quarterfinals, only to return to the semifinals in 2011/2012. In their last EBEL season in 2012/2013, they were stopped in the quarterfinals.
After four seasons in the Erste Bank Ice Hockey League, Medveščak decided on 29 April 2013 to take a historic step to join the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) – the largest hockey league outside of North America – and in September 2013 will begin to write a new history for this prestigious sports society!
Medveščak has spent 4 years in the KHL. In their first year, the team even managed to make playoffs, reaching conference quarterfinals. They have played famous clubs during the time in the KHL.
In the 2017-18 season, the team has returned to the EBEL league. The league now features teams from 5 countries: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. Medveščak has finished 6th in the regular season and improved a spot in the placement round. This result was good enough for the team to reach quarterfinals in the first year they were back.
Medveščak underwent some changes before the next season in hope of maintaining and improving on the success of the previous season.
Big player names on Medveščak jerseys
Throughout all of these years, many local and foreign players have played in Medveščak. Amongst them are included notable Croatian hockey legends such as Ivo Ratej, Boris Renaud, and Miroslav Gojanović, who were also permanent members of the SFR Yugoslavia’s representation at numerous world championships and Olympic Games, and some tried their luck in NHL teams (Chicago Blackhawks) and played in various successful European clubs. Some of the foreign players that have defended Medveščak’s colours throughout the years include: Viktor Krutov, Sergei Borisov, Slava Anisin, Vladimir Tshurenko, Sergei Paramonov, Mikhail Anferov, Sergei Stolbun, along with Steve Gatzos, Dave Stoyanovich and Philippe DeRouville more recently. In the era of Medveščak in the Erste Bank Hockey League, fans were delighted by the likes of Joel Prpic, Robert Kristan, Michael Ouzas, John Hećimović, Ryan Kinasewich, Andy Sertich, Frank Banham, Jamie Rivers, Don MacLean, Brad Smyth, along with active NHL player Dustin Jeffrey from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and many others.
The big heart of Zagreb’s Bears
In 2010, thanks to its socially conscious and humanitarian orientation, Medveščak became an official sports partner of the international organization UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). With that, Zagreb’s Bears became the only hockey team in the world to carry such a title with the likes of some of the world’s largest other sports organizations such as soccer clubs Manchester United, Barcelona, and Bocca Juniors. At the same time, Medveščak’s team captain became the sports spokesperson for UNICEF’s ‘Stop Bullying’ campaign.
In the spring of 2013, the club established its KHL Medveščak Zagreb Charity Fund with the objective to provide scholarships to young student athletes in the coming years.
Through its activities, the club and its fans have supported numerous charitable activities and organizations such as the Croatian League for the Fight Against Cancer, the association for women who are diagnosed with or have battled breast cancer called ‘All for Her!’ (‘Sve za nju!’), anti AIDS campaigns, PETA Croatia, the charitable society CROATIA WITHOUT MINES, the ROTARY club Zagreb, the Croatian Association for Training Guide Dogs, and many others…
CLUB’S RESULTS AND SUCCESSES THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Kontinental Hockey League:
2013/2014: Conference quarterfinals.
Croatian Championship (22):
1994/95, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
International Hockey League (1):
Yugoslavian Championship (3):
1988/89, 1989/90, 1990/91.
Yugoslavian Cup (4):
1987/88, 1988/89, 1989/90, 1990/91.