Stefan Chomakov passed away
by Ivan Tchechankov|06 AUG 2021
Stefan Chomakov (left) during his time as BIHF General Secretary with IIHF President René Fasel.
photo: BIHF
Former Bulgarian national team defenceman, coach and BIHF General Secretary Stefan Chomakov passed away on 26th July at the age of 83.

Stefan Chomakov was born on 21 September 1937 in Sofia. He started playing organized hockey in 1952 with the army club CDNA Sofia. At that time he was also an Alpine skier. He graduated from the University of Forestry and was honorary lecturer for ice hockey at the National Sports Academy. When he was studying at the university, Chomakov played for Akademik Sofia. Then he joined Cherveno zname Sofia and played for Metallurg Pernik, where he could work in his specialty – landscaping. Later he went back to the already united team CSKA Cherveno zname (later CSKA Septemvriisko zname), where he finished his playing career.

Bulgaria made its debut in the Ice Hockey World Championships at the 30th edition in Stockholm, 7-17 March 1963. Stefan Chomakov (a.k.a. Chometo) was on the team that travelled all over Europe by train, ferry and train to arrive in the capital of Sweden just in time for the first game in the third tier (Group C) with the Netherlands. 

“We didn’t have a sleeping place on the trains, just seats. From Sassnitz in East Germany we took the old train ferry ‘King Gustav V’ to Trelleborg, Sweden. Everything in this ferry was in mahogany. The Baltic Sea was covered with ice and we had difficulties making our way, but it was extremely beautiful. Of course we arrived late in Trelleborg and missed our train to Stockholm, but eventually we were able to finish our journey and start the championships. Our group played its games on an open ice rink at the Royal stadium. In the first game against the Netherlands our goaltender Lubomir Traykov saved a penalty shot few seconds before the end and the score was a tie – 3-3. Two days later we won 7-3 over Belgium. The Bulgarian hymn was played at the Royal stadium and we were listening and crying of joy. The Austrian team was led by the Canadian Adelbert “Del” St. John. Bulgaria was the only team to play successfully against them and we lost with just one goal difference – 3-2. In the closing minutes the Hungarians came to the rink. We knew them well and they were asking us why the game started so late….Looking at the score, they thought that this was just the beginning, not the end of the game,” wrote Stefan Chomakov in his hockey memoirs. Bulgaria lost the two other games in the championships – 5-4 to Denmark and 8-3 to Hungary. “The national newspaper Sport had me as number 1 in the year-end classification of the top-10 hockey players in Bulgaria for 1963, but in my opinion this was undeservedly – on the national team there were other excellent players as well.” 

Chomakov, a reliable defenceman, played mostly on a line with Dimitar Lazarov, was the captain of the team during the second Bulgarian participation at the World Championships – 1967 in Vienna, Austria. The “Lions” won their first two games – 10-3 over Netherlands and 3-2 over France, but lost the last two – 8-2 to Japan and 4-2 to Denmark. “Jan Kasper (note - Czechoslovak player in the ‘50s and ‘60s) was the one who taught me how to deliver a bodycheck and I was the first to use this method in Bulgaria,” recalled Chomakov recently.

He started his coaching career with the CSKA Septemvriisko Zname Junior team. Then he took under his arms the men’s team and later was the head coach of Akademik Sofia. Chometo was also the national coach of the Bulgarian national team for the 1983 Winter Universiade in Sofia and head coach for a tournament in Hungary. He even had few games as a hockey referee in the national championships.

During the late ‘80s and in the ‘90s Chomakov was the General Secretary of the Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation. In these most difficult times – the end of the Communist regime and the rich state sports programs – he made huge efforts for the survival of hockey in Bulgaria, using his talent to communicate and engage people for the cause. At one point he found the phone number of Bulgarian-born Canadian business magnate and philanthropist Ignat Kaneff and talked him to come to Bulgaria with a junior team to play matches. 

Stefan Chomakov was a great hockey man, but more importantly a greater human being. He was always ready to help and promote the young and the initiative. Many of the current coaches and executives had their first steps and the chance to progress because of him. Chomakov was a very charismatic person who was able to share his love of hockey telling great stories, showing his enthusiasm and devotion. He is survived by his wife Bistra, two sons – Dimitar and Emil – and two grandchildren – Boris and Yana. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.