MALMÖ – Marktoberdorf, Germany isn’t going to be confused with Sudbury, Örnsköldsvik, or Ust-Kamenogorsk any time soon. But it’s still pretty amazing that five hockey players from this tiny town of 18,000 in the south of Germany have gone on to play international hockey at the highest level for their country.
Even more amazing is that three of that number come from one family – the Eisenschmids.
“I have an older brother, who’s visiting today as well,” explained Markus Eisenschmid, a forward with the U20 team here in Malmö. “He played hockey when he was younger but quit. My older sister Tanja is playing at the University of North Dakota and is doing well. My younger sister Nicola has an offer to go there next year, so she’ll visit next summer to see how it is.”
Benedikt Brückner and Anja Welsser are the other natives of Marktoberdorf, but for the moment the Eisenschmid family trumps all.
“When we were young my parents wanted us to learn how to skate,” Markus continued. “My sister really liked it and one day put a stick in her hands and started playing hockey. The same with me. I just went out and played and liked it. I think we were pretty good when we were younger.”
Although Marktoberdorf was their place of birth, the family mainly grew up in another town close by. “We were raised in Kaufbeuren, just ten minutes away from Marktoberdorf, but hockey was a big part of life,” Markus continued. “The men’s team usually played in second division, and the junior team was always pretty good and even won a couple of championships. A lot of good players came out of the area like Alexander Sulzer, who is in the NHL with Buffalo.”
The three siblings are very close in age. Tanja was born in 1993, Markus 1995, and Nicola 1996. “When I was 14 or 15, I played with Tanya,” Markus said. “I played with an older team, and she played down one age group because she was a girl. We often played together. She was a defenceman and I was a forward. That was pretty nice. I never had a chance to play with Nicola because she was a year younger. But maybe they’ll play together some time. Tanya is going to the Olympic Games this year and Nicola has a chance to go the next Olympic Games.”
Indeed, as of today it is Tanja who is the most experienced of the three. She played at three U18 Women's World Championships (2009-11), captaining the team in her final U18 year, and moved directly up to the senior team the next season, competing at the 2012 and 2013 Women’s World Championships. And, as Markus said, she will be representing Germany at the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.
Nicola played her first IIHF event for Germany at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship and still has another year of U18 eligibility. She won’t be joining Tanja this year in Sochi but might well be with her sister for PyeongChang in 2018.
“The Olympic Games is the highest level of play you can reach,” Markus continued. “To know that my sister will be playing there and I can watch her on TV is just amazing.”
Markus is at his first U20 tournament. He played for Germany at the 2012 and 2013 U18 Worlds and wore the “C” for the team’s first game here in Malmö. He knows the task in this tournament is both difficult and simple – avoid regelation. “We have to play every game as if it’s the most important,” he said.
And with all his hockey-playing siblings watching, he’ll want to make sure to be successful in his ambitions.
ANDREW PODNIEKSMarkus Eisenschmid's sisters Tanja (left) and Nicola also played in IIHF competitions in 2013. Photos: Andre Ringuette, Mika Kylmäniemi / HHOF-IIHF Images