A Cool Tradition. A Dream of Champions. Legends of Australian Ice.

Organised ice hockey has been played in Australia for over a CENTURY.

In fact, the ice hockey tradition here is so richly steeped in EMINENCE,

The booming years of MARVELLOUS MELBOURNE,

And the earliest EMERGENCE of the sport internationally,

One wonders how on earth its STORY

Was ever able to be LOST for one whole century,

Like DUST between the cracks of history.

TODAY, THE HUGE OPEN-AIR ICE RINK of Budapest is on the Top-10 list of Lonely Planet as one of the best places in Europe in winter time. But half a century ago, Varosliget (City Park) was home ice for Budapesti Korcsolya Egylet, and for Sandor Miklos, one of Europe's greatest players, before he fled to Australia. Image courtesy Daily News, Hungary

[ HOCKEY ] The Doctor of Laws

Sandor Miklos (1915 - 1981)

'THEY'RE still playing blue line hockey,' was the startled comment of a near-veteran when he saw the NSW ice hockey team in action last Friday ... and the tragedy is, he was right, and that puts NSW about eight years behind the times in hockey fashions. Victoria's quick conversion to the red line game when it was introduced in 1947, won it the Goodall Cup series for the first time in 25 years - and they haven't lost it since - mainly because NSW officials and older players are apparently oblivious to the change. The whys and wherefors of this fantastic, head-in-the-sand attitude is something for the NSW people to work out for themselves but, until they do, interstate matches are not going to be very interesting. At the moment Victoria could strip at least two teams that would beat the present NSW team. What chance would you give them against the following, none of whom played last Friday... Campbell, T. Endrei, Mulloy, Nicholas, Krista, Stuart, Ekberg, Derrick, G. Endrei, Snooek and Sengotta? As a matter of fact there's no guarantee that the Victorian side which coasted to that 11-4 win last Friday would find that bunch easy either. Sporting Globe Melbourne, 9 June 1954 p 18, Column: "On the Ice"

ONE important feature of Bud McEachern's coaching at St Moritz is that he is making players observe the rules. Especially that the puckhandler is the only man who may be tackled. Unfortunately some of our boys have never heard of it, and their tactics on the ice more often resemble League football than ice hockey. The same applies to most of our referees. Perhaps the Association could ask McEachern to run a school for referees. Or better still, some of the former international players might be persuaded to take an interest as officials. What a great panel of referees you could get from men such as Sandy Miklos, Steve Paterson and Frank Chase! Sporting Globe Melbourne, 1954

Tram 58 at Zugliget, Budapest, ca. 1940

ON CHRISTMAS DAY 1944, the trams stopped running —  up from the sixty-six tracks, up from the rotting sleepers and the electric cars of the Capital Transport Co —  war came. Strategically located, the capital of Germany's last remaining ally in Europe and the gateway to Vienna and southern Bavaria, had long been an important outpost, a trading post within the fertile Danubian basin. It is a setpiece full of visual drama, a theatrical, magical kind of place. Buda perched on steep hills, craving attention, her sprawling Royal Palace, and her Citadel carved into jagged cliffs which plunge into the river. Pest on the flat plain is all business, commerce and intellect, all conversation and art. The boulevards, shameless imitations of both Paris and Vienna, are lined, lot for lot, with eclectic fusions of Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine facades, resigned long ago to the difficult reality that most of those that draw the eye were built between 1885 and 1935. The Parliament, an ostentatious parade of spires outdoing Westminster, Gothic arch for Gothic arch, faces the dirty gray Danube, the heart of the city. [1]

On the Danube bridges connecting the two, a German guard stood every twenty meters during the fighting known today as the Siege of Budapest. Along the Danube quay, work detachments prepared for war, where once one strolled pleasantly under the lanterns in the pale summer nights in front of the row of world famous hotels — the Ritz, Bristol, Hungaria and Carlton. The coffee house habitus met as usual at five p.m. in the Negresco, then moved on to the Dubarry or Hungarica Bar around seven to have their customary 'Flip' or a good Tocay —  while Soviet aircraft indiscriminately dropped bombs followed by flares into the city. For dinner, the Soviet long-range artillery sent heavy shells. The waiters served on, nobody making a fuss. Each day there were at least four or five air-raid alerts.

The first week of the siege was characterized by a series of uncoordinated, violent Soviet attacks from several directions while the defenders contracted their lines in eastern Pest and stabilized the precarious situation in Buda. But it turned into one of the most frightful urban battles of World War II, raging until just before Sandor Miklos, the crack centre for Budapesti Korcsolya Egylet and BBTE Budapest, was to celebrate his twenty-ninth year there. BKE had dominated the top line of the Hungarian Ice Hockey Championships for a decade, 1936-46, and Miklos himself was considered to be among Europe's best ice hockey players of the 1930s. He had represented Hungary in seven World Championships and in the 1936 Winter Olympics at Garmisch-Partenkirchen where Hungary placed equal seventh with Austria, defeated only by Great Britain, Canada, USA, Czechoslavakia, Sweden and Germany. He scored 8 goals and 1 assist. [4]

After the war, hockey showed the first signs of life in June 1945. The Hungarian association summoned the teams to its office through the daily sports paper. The only goal of the season was the renovation of the skating rink at the City Park, which was seriously damaged from the fighting. One wing of the clubhouse had completely collapsed and the roof was missing from almost the entire building. The ice surface was damaged by bomb craters and the electrical equipment was all gone. Only the engine house survived the war with slight damage. Training resumed, but games could not be held until the following year. [20]

Miklos played for Ferencvarosi TC and was awarded the Silver Medal of Merit of the Hungarian Republic. It really was some kind of tragic irony that left him a displaced person there following the establishment of a four-decade-long communist dictatorship between 1947 and 1989. In 1948, he played in Austria for EC Kitzbuhel. Then in 1949, he was among the half of the 170,000 displaced people coming to Australia between 1947 and 1951 who lived at Bonegilla migrant camp near Wodonga in Victoria [3], many in Block 19. Most stayed for about a month while they learnt to speak English and the way of life here, then moved on to work in areas where there was a labour shortage.

Bonegilla, ex Army Barracks, 1940s Years later, Miklos said he fled Soviet-occupied Hungary with his wife and two children in 1948 to escape political persecution, leaving behind a personal estate of £1.5 million (about $81.5 million), which the Russians allegedly seized without compensation. [6] In Melbourne, he played for Pirates IHC in the Victorian Ice Hockey Association and represented Victoria in the 1949 Goodall Cup when he was 34 years-old. In 1950, he became coach of Hawthorn IHC in Melbourne, before transferring to Blackhawks IHC where he was joined a short while later by fellow Hungarians, the Endrei brothers, Tommy and George.

Sandor Miklos was an only child, born March 5th 1915 in Budapest, the son of Lazlo and Chrestenci Miklos [7] He later adopted the name Alexander, the anglicised form of Sandor, and was known in Melbourne as Dr Alexander George Miklos [7] He has also been described as a former Hungarian socialite, doctor of laws, lawyer, member of parliament and millionaire. [6, 9] He played intelligently and was a good tactician with highly-developed skills. He was considered an excellent skater, stickhandler and shot for goal; a complete Canadian-style player. [2] He and goaltender István Hircsák are considered the best pre-WW II players in Hungary and Miklos is widely regarded as one of the best Hungarian players of all time. In fact, Hungary's Most Skillful Player of the Year Award established in 1990 is named the Miklos Cup in his honour.

Miklos helped Victoria to victory in the 1949 Goodall Cup but, had it been New South Wales, he would have stepped back in time to the blue line game, where players had to carry the puck to another zone, not pass it. It was the red line game he found in Victoria, the modern form of hockey that took its name from the new line at centre ice and the modern offside rule introduced by the IIHF in 1946. That was also the time that IIHF games were first required to consist of three 20-minute periods. However, body-checking was still allowed only in the defensive zone for many years to come.

A few years earlier in 1946, Victoria had tied New South Wales for the Goodall Cup and, as a Sporting Globe reporter noted, the State's "quick conversion to the red line game when it was introduced in 1947, won it the Goodall Cup series for the first time in 25 years, mainly because NSW officials and older players are apparently oblivious to the change." [5] Remarkably, the team manager was, Syd Hiort, president of the VIHA , who had played for New South's Monarchs before the war, and was a 1939 Goodall Cup Champion representing NSW. The coach of Victoria was Ellis Kelly, son of W L Kelly, the Test Manager of the Australian cricket eleven that toured England in 1930, Bradman's first trip. Victoria dominated the Goodall Cup series for the next 25 years.

In 1952, Miklos co-founded Continental Carry Food, a phone-order, chef-prepared, Continental evening meal delivery service, with Czech-born Parisian restauranteur, Andre Schwatz. Their chef was Julius Zajmusz, a Hungarian compatriot of Miklos, who "had cooked for, and won praise from such fastidious royal eaters as the Duke of Windsor and King Farouk". The service started delivering 120 meals each evening in three cars from its Armadale base kitchen for 6 shillings and sixpence (6/6-) apiece, but this had expanded to 300 meals by July. [9] "In Budapest alone," said Dr Miklos, "an entire city building houses a delivery meal-service company, and 25 chefs rush to prepare 5,000 delivered meals." The company had planned to supply the specially served meals of their home countries to the athletes of fifty nations at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. [8]

Late in 1952, a vote of no confidence in the executive officers of the Victorian Ice Hockey Association (VIHA) had been passed by eight of the nine club delegates. The executive was Syd Hiort (president), John McCrae-Williamson (secretary) and Sid Bysouth (treasurer). [14] The underlying cause of the discontent was the falling away of spectators and the lack of ideas in the presentation of the game. [13] The executive was replaced and Miklos succeeded Syd Hiort as VIHA president in 1953, five years after he had arrived in Australia.

He held office for two terms, presiding over a dispute that was reportedly the greatest ice hockey upheaval since the 1948 breakaway that had led to the formation of the rebel Victorian Ice Hockey League (VIHL). In fact, the problem had really begun there in 1949 during the fight for control of ice hockey in the state. In an effort to improve its chances of Olympic recognition back then, the VIHA had adopted an amateur ruling so strict it should have outlawed the majority of its own players who were being paid to play for various teams. "The New Australian players were the back-bone of post-war ice hockey," wrote a contemporary journalist, "but not one could have passed muster as an amateur, and as a matter of necessity the amateur ruling was honoured only in the breach". [10] He meant the amateur rule was more often broken than observed.

In his new role as VIHA president, Miklos suspended the association's Match and Permit Committee following the granting of playing permits to Graham Argue and Jimmy Lawrence who were professional skaters in Melbourne and Sydney with the show, Hot Ice. The Committee — referees Len Fisher, Sid Percy and Laurie Cunningham [10] — had earlier ignored the direction of the executive to rescind the decision, and Lawrence played for the Blackhawks on their advice. That was the trigger and the great irony of it was that both players were homegrown Australians. The controversy took a farcical turn when Argue revealed he had earlier been granted a playing permit by the New South Wales Association when the show was in Sydney. [16] In the upheaval that followed, several other players were named as having at various times received money for playing.

The Australian Ice Hockey Council of the time had adopted an amateur ruling in line with other amateur bodies overseas that allowed two professionals to each team. So too had the NSW association, which was similarly a member of the Olympic Council in that State. But the VIHA constitution made no such provision. [11] One group in the Victorian association was determined to clean-up the game and make it strictly amateur, and there was much confusion among VIHA delegates over the Victorian Olympic Council (VOC) view of individual amateur status. The group regarded any payment that took place while a recipient was a member of the VIHA as a breach of amateur status. Yet, when the two bodies first sought affiliation, they had frankly discussed the case of English and Canadian professional, Frank Chase, who then held a permit, and the VOC sanctioned his presence in VIHA matches. [11] Chase has signed a three-year contract to play and coach the clubs at H H Kleiner's St Moritz ice rink. Similarly, Bud McEachern was appointed as rink coach at St Moritz in 1954 while continuing to play with Monarchs IHC. [19]

Victorian ice hockey was booming, but the 1953 season was regarded as the worst since the war, and there were many clashes between factions within the association executive. The Raiders IHC claimed several times they had been victimized by the combined vote of the weaker clubs. On the other hand, they had just won their fourth consecutive premiership with a team consisting mostly of highly-skilled New Australians. Shortly after Christmas 1953, Jack Skolnik, the Raiders' wealthy president, announced plans to breakaway from the VIHA and establish headquarters at the Richmond Baths, today's Richmond Recreation Centre. Skolnik was also president and an early driving force of the Hakoah Soccer Club in the 1950s, from where Kurt DeFris became the first 'New Australian' to manage the Victorian and Australian soccer teams in 1955. Skolnik gave the main reason behind the move as dissatisfaction with the VIHA administration. The Raiders and a number of other leading clubs had reached the point of departure.

A meeting of the four Glaciarium clubs convened by Skolnik agreed to boycott the 1955 annual general meeting of the VIHA. But the problem was equally about the competing rink managements who had the final say on what use was to be made of their ice. They were notoriously conservative where new ideas for ice hockey were concerned. [16] Miklos was re-elected president at the AGM and the association introduced a new rule limiting each of the two rinks to four teams, probably to avoid their well-founded fear of an independent competition emerging from either one. McRae-Williamson was returned as secretary after a year hiatus and Rex Boden, one of the four Glaciarium members to attend the breakaway meeting, was appointed treasurer. And so it was that Skolnik's breakaway threat was averted and the Raiders won an all-time record fifth consecutive premiership.

In 1956, the club was merged with Hakoah IHC, the same year that Kurt DeFris began his association with ice hockey as manager of the newly-formed Arkana IHC based at Melbourne Glaciarium. This club also merged with Hakoah the following year when Melbourne Glaciarium closed its doors forever, and is known today as IHV Melbourne Jets. DeFris went on to serve four years as VIHA Senior Vice President, followed by a record seventeen years as VIHA president, 1962 to 1978.

In 1955, Miklos was succeeded as VIHA president by Canadian, George Hewitt, who Jim Bendrodt had brought to Australia before the war in his Canadian Bears team. That same year Miklos was declared bankrupt at the age of forty after the collapse of his company, Continental Carry Food, at 228 Malvern Road, Prahran. [15] By 1961, he lived at Redesdale Road in Ivanhoe, an eastern suburb of Melbourne, and was employed as a conveyancing clerk with the Melbourne firm of solicitors, Norris Coates and Hearle.

In the City Court that year he pleaded guilty to having stolen £17,330 (about $438,000) from their trust account. Bald, well-dressed and pleading for clemency, he told the court of the fortune he lost when he fled his Soviet-occupied homeland, and claimed he spent none of the embezzled £17,330 on himself. He lost it all on racehorse gambling. The court found that he and his wife were earning a total of £3,000 a year (about $75,000). He was sentenced to a maximum gaol term of three years, with a minimum of nine months before parole. [6]

In 1981, Alexander George Miklos died at 66 years of age at Fitzroy, an inner city suburb of Melbourne, Australia. [7] He was inducted to the inaugural Hungarian Hockey Hall of Fame as a player in 2011.

Budapesti Korcsolyazo Egylet (BKE) vs LTC Prague, City Park, Budapest, 1939. Sandor Miklos is standing 4th from left. BKE players standing left to right, Hubai, Gosztonyi, Gergely II, Sandor Miklos, Ott, Szamosi, Haray, Helmeczi, Csak. Image from Eighty Years of Hungarian Ice Hockey, Hungarian Ice Hockey Association.

Sandor Miklos (Budapest, March 5, 1915 — Melbourne,1981)

1936-37 Budapesti Korcsolya Egylet, OB I Bajnoksag
1937-38 Budapesti Korcsolya Egylet, OB I Bajnoksag
1938-39 Budapesti Korcsolya Egylet, OB I Bajnoksag
1939-40 Budapesti Korcsolya Egylet, OB I Bajnoksag
1940-41 Budapesti Budai TE (BBTE), OB I Bajnoksag
1941-42 Budapesti Budai TE (BBTE), OB I Bajnoksag
1945-46 Budapesti Korcsolya Egylet, OB I Bajnoksag
1946-47 Ferencvarosi TC, OB I Bajnoksag
1947-48 Ferencvarosi TC, OB I Bajnoksag
1948-49 Ferencvarosi TC, OB I Bajnoksag
1949-50 EC Kitzbuhel (AUT)

[Slideshow above] The video is part of the induction ceremony to the inaugural Hungarian Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011. The plaques are fixed to the entry walls of the Varosliget rink building in Budapest, pictured above.


[1] See Marton, Kati (1995). Wallenberg : missing hero (1st Arcade ed.). New York: Distributed by Little, Brown and Company.

[2] Stats and Biography by Patrick Houda, Stockholm, Sweden. Courtesy Birger Nordmark, 24 Dec 2014.

[3] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 22 Jun 1949 p 17. "Ice Hockey Booming", by Stan Marks.

[4] eurohockey.com

[5] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 15 Sep 1954 p 7, Column: "On the Ice"

[6] Canberra Times 4 Aug 1961, p 6. Article: "Millionaire" Gaoled For Theft"

[7] Miklos Family Tree, Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages. (Birth and death dates match)

[8] The Age, Melbourne,? May 21, 1952 p 3. Article: "Meals Delivered to Home for 6/6". Syndicated in Adelaide and Broken Hill.

[9] Portland Guardian, 21 Jul 1952, p 1

[10] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 9 Sep 1953, p5. Article: "'Shamateurism' Ice Hockey War"

[11] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 23 Sep 1953, p5. Article: "Confused Thinking Still in Ice Hockey Wrangle"

[12] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 30 Dec 1953 p5. Article: "Ice Hockey Discord Leads to Breakaway"

[13] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 16 Aug 1952 p9, Article: "Upset in Ice Hockey"

[14] VIHA AGM Minutes, 1952, IHV Office Bearers, Paul Rice.

[15] The Argus, Melbourne, 8 December 1955, p 18. Law Notices.

[16] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 31 Jul 1954, p 9. Article: "They're Tougher Than You Think!" by Stan Gray.

[17] VIHA AGM Minutes, 1955, IHV Office Bearers, Paul Rice.

[18] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 14 Apr 1954 p6. Coulumn: On The Ice

[19] Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 21 Apr 1954 p 18. Coulumn: On The Ice

[20] Eighty Years of Hungarian Ice Hockey, Hungarian Ice Hockey Association

Meals Delivered to Home for 6/6. The Age, Melbourne,? May 21, 1952 p 3.

They're Tougher Than You Think! by Stan Gray. Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 31 July 1954, p 9.

Meet the Man Who Finances Soccer Tours. The Sun-Herald Sporting Section, April 7, 1957, p 57.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 1936, members of the German hockey team saluting after defeating the Hungarian team.

Shamateurism Ice Hockey War. Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 9 Sep 1953, p5.

Confused Thinking Still in Ice Hockey Wrangle. Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 23 Sep 1953, p5.

Ice Hockey Discord Leads to Breakaway. Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 30 Dec 1953 p5.

Upset in Ice Hockey. Sporting Globe, Melbourne, 16 Aug 1952 p9.

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