Soviet Era to Modern Ukraine,
Article by Yana Savchuk, Chevrnsti, Ukraine
“Foreword” by Gregory Scoma
The game of table hockey has existed for more than ninety years in various parts of the world. In Ukraine, table hockey was not well-known, not widely-available or popular.
That is, until a single event triggered table hockey becoming known to Ukrainians and created its dramatic rise in popularity. It did not, however, make table hockey games widely available. That would come decades later.
What was this event? Who was involved?
It involved a man known by all Ukrainians and people of the former Soviet Union. All of the nation’s knowledge, grit, and determination to succeed was embodied by this one man. His achievement was the fruit of their collective effort. It was also a milestone in the existence of mankind.
Who was this person? What was the connection between him and table hockey? And, why table hockey?
A clue, he was a “keen sportsman and played ice hockey as a goal keeper.”
Today, as a result of his playing table hockey, table hockey is readily available for sale in every toyshop and you can easily find someone to play against, because it has evolved into a competitive sport played by many Ukrainians who travel freely to international competitions.
But, how did that happen?
This is the story of table hockey’s rise to popularity in Ukraine and the two men who helped make that happen, the famous and honorable Yuri Gagarin and Yevheniy Rohachevskiy.
History of Table Hockey in Ukraine, by– Yana Savchuk, Chevrnsti, Ukraine
The Soviet Era
Yuri Gagarin’s Impact on Table Hockey, World’s First Cosmonaut
Table Hockey on TV, 1960s
The history of this ‘table’ sport in Ukraine goes back to the 1960s. The entire world was fascinated with the possibility of mankind traveling to outer space. The possibility made headline news in the newspapers, radio and on television (TV). The people who trained to become the world’s first cosmonauts or astronauts became well known within their nation.
But, the first person to successfully travel to outer space became known by everyone around the world! That first person was Yuri Gagarin, Cosmonaut of the former Union of Soviet Satellite Republics (USSR), of which Ukraine was then a member. He became like an international celebrity of today.
So when Yuri Gagarin played table hockey side by side with professional ice hockey players on TV, everyone in the former USSR got to see table hockey at the same time and many for the first time!
Afterwards, table hockey became one of the most exciting and popular games of that time!
Shortage of Ready-Made Toys
As we stated above, Ukraine was then a part of Soviet Union. At that time, it was nearly impossible to get the game. Even ready-made toys were considered an untold wealth: not because of the price, but shortage. Those, who were lucky enough to have one, had been very popular among friends. Nowadays, the modern hockey games are brighter and definitely more attractive. Still, many adults would prefer nostalgic version.
Soviet Era Table Hockey Games – Examples
As for the first versions of the table hockey game – they were made of metal and plastic. The signs were made in Russian language (Ukrainian was prohibited at that time). Thought, sometimes the names of the teams were mentioned on the scoreboard. Quite often, hockey sticks got stuck in slots, and there were many blind zones where you couldn’t reach the game piece.
Shaibu! Shaibu! (Give Me the Puck! Give Me the Puck!)
Popularity with Parents and Children
As a rule, the majority of the games were neutral with red players and blue players. It has been very convenient and definitely popular with parents and children. Few people even used to watch live television translations first, and then reproduce the matches on the board game.
Video: Watch Soviet Era Table Hockey Game in Action!
Founding of Soviet Union’s National Table Hockey Federation, Kiev, Ukraine
In the mid 90s, National Table Hockey Federation (NTHF) was founded in Kiev. “Kiev Championship” and “Caponier Cup” were held at Kosyi Caponier Museum. Meanwhile only federation members could take part in “Federation Cup”.
Aktubrenthen – Official Game of NTHF
The official table hockey game of the NTHF was the “Aktubrenthen”, made Kazakhstan, of the former Soviet Union. It was used at NTHF championships.
NTHF Tournament Rules
The matches consisted of two periods – five minutes each. It had been prohibited to shake the game board. The goals made by hockey sticks were scored, but the bounced shots were not taken into consideration. Miniatures, that scored the goal, were fixed by the jury as well as the time of a goal.
The tournaments had up to 15 competitors. It looked like a mini-copy of a big hockey game. There were around 4 playing stations and each one had a name for that. The judges were chosen among participants.
Ukraine (Post USSR) – Enter Stiga
After the break up of the Soviet Union, the “Aktubrenthen” games were not produced anymore. Therefore, the organization searched for an alternative.
Milestone and Importance of Yevheniy Rohachevskiy
Someone had found “Stiga” Contests in Europe and decision was taken immediately! Yevheniy Rohachevskiy was the first man to bring “Stiga” version of table hockey game to Ukraine. Yevheniy traveled all the way to the Czech Republic and bought all the stuff for future “Stiga” contests in Ukraine. By the end of the 20th century, all the active table-hockey players in Kyiv switched on this game.
First Kyiv Table Hockey Championships
Stiga vs Aktubrenthen
The first Kyiv Table Hockey Championship was held on March 16, 1999. On that day all the players were united in small clubs. Each player represented their club and that is why the club names were displayed on the scoreboard, instead of participants’ names.
Dislike of Stiga
Players did not like the “Stiga” game at first, because it seemed to be very restricted comparing with the “Aktubrenthen” game they used before. Anyway, the players did not have choice as the rest of the world started to play “Stiga”.
Rise of Stiga and International Competition
Two weeks later, two men from Kyiv (Olexii Panferov and Dmytro Kudrytskii) joined World Championship in Germany. Their results were far from the winner’s pedestal, but still Mr. Panferov was 67th, and Mr. Kudrytskii was 61st.
Today, the 1999 Kyiv Championship is considered to be the first official ITHF championship in Ukraine.
Nowadays, table hockey is well known in central and eastern parts of Ukraine. The biggest club is located in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Its most active and competitive members always do their best to join international events and show the world that Ukraine is also in the game.
Дякую! Dyakuyu! Thank You!
Thank you for reading! If you have questions or would like to know more about life in Ukraine, Ukrainian table hockey players or events, please feel free to send me an email at Yana.Savchuk@wtha.eu or find me on Twitter at @YanaWTHA_UKR
Copyright © Yana Savchuk, WTHA
— Sources and Citations —
1) Shalomayev, Mykhail. “Part 1. Introduction to STIGA”. NaHok Table Hockey in Ukraine. 16 May 2009. <https://boardhockey.org.ua/index2.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=319&pop=1&page=0&Itemid=37>
2) Unknown author. “Table hockey 1971.” Soviet War-time Toy. By DRA87. 04 August 2016. http://toyarmyussr.in.ua/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=7970