Hockey sisters Tanja and Nicola Eisenschmid after winning Division I gold in Aalborg. Photo: Jan Korsgaard
Sisters win Division I gold, brother plays in AHL
Eisenschmid may not be your traditional name that you hear around the ice rink, but it is a name that simply screams hockey right now in Germany.
The Eisenschmid family consist of four hockey devoted siblings; Markus, Tanja and Nicola play on the ice and oldest brother Michael plays street hockey.
The Eisenschmid sisters, 19-year-old Nicola and 22-year-old Tanja, have been representing their country in the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A where they secured gold for Germany and gained promotion to the top division tournament in Plymouth, USA, in 2017.
This feat has been the pinnacle of their careers together as hockey playing sisters, and they understand the rarity of the special moment to celebrate a gold medal on the ice with a sibling that you hold so close.
“It is fun winning a tournament alone, but it is even better sharing it with you sister,” said Tanja, smiling with joy at her sister Nicola, who most definitely agreed.
The sisters never dreamed of winning a gold medal together back when they were just young girls going to the ice rink as part of a social fad when they were growing up. The girls and their brothers tried many different sports, but it was hockey that inspired them.
“My sister and my brother skated and we just continued. We tried some things like judo and athletics, but it was hockey that we stuck with,” explained Nicola about how she began on her road to being a German hockey star.
In Germany it is not uncommon for girls to play with the boys, giving Tanja the opportunity to play one year and Nicola two years with their brother Markus, who currently plays in the AHL with the St. John’s IceCaps and represented Germany at two World Juniors.
Sibling rivalry was never a real issue in the family, although, it did come out occasionally when playing in the streets as kids, where Michael Eisenschmid has now excelled, also recently representing Germany at the street hockey Worlds in Canada as the token goaltender of the family.
“Everybody plays and we played on the street too, playing street hockey, and that is where it got competitive because we all played together,” says Tanja.
Being the oldest of the ice siblings, Tanja embarked on improving her hockey career first by leaving Germany to play in North Dakota in the NCAA competition. Her time their almost instantaneously lifted her game which gave her the opportunity to debut for the women’s national team at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Tanja credits her improvement to the unique hockey program that they have at the University of North Dakota and wouldn’t trade her time there for anything in the world.
“The development that the girls get there is just awesome. You don’t get it anywhere else,” says Tanja and continues. “The professors help you out a lot and that really helps you to develop fully hockey-wise.”
“It is something that I could never replace with anything else. It was an incredible experience. I wouldn’t trade who I have met and what I have learned there for anything.”
Nicola, who is three years younger, is following a very similar path to her sister, playing with the boys until the U16 league until moving to the women’s as she became older. Since moving to play for ECDC Memmingen, her game has begun to take even bigger steps forward, tallying an even 20 goals and 20 assists in 2015/16, making her the sixth-best scorer in the entire league and the third best German-born player.
“We had a pretty good team in Memmingen and the season was good for me,” said Nicola. Tanja elaborated: “I think she developed well (this season). Before that she played with the boys and last year with the women. That is when she really started and this year is when she really developed. She got a lot of points up and got on the scoreboard.”
The natural progression of Nicola’s story is to move to North America like her sister and brother, but there is just one tiny detail that she needs to take care of first.
“I would love to but I have to graduate school first, then maybe I can go,” she said.
Markus Eisenschmid has also taken his career to North America. Like her sisters he played for hometown club ESV Kaufbeuren until the major junior league DNL, then he continued his junior hockey for two years with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, just outside of Calgary.
Markus impressed in his second year for the Tigers, in 2014/15, scoring 19 goals and 25 assists in 50 games, which gave him his a shot in the summer development camp for the Montreal Canadians where he continued to score goals. After the camp he was signed by the Canadiens and joined their AHL affiliate St. John’s IceCaps. Unfortunately his first year in the AHL has been riddled with injury, but hopefully his constant improving form when he has been on the ice will keep him in the mind of the scouts in Montreal.
Still all in their early twenties, the future is sure to hold great things for this vivacious hockey family. There is no doubt that their drive and passion for the sport is set to take them to heights that they have never dreamed of. Their special connection and understanding that they have with one another, which has already beared so much fruit, will only become richer.
“We have always had a passion for hockey and that makes you want to play and get better,” explains Tanja.
“Most of the times when we are sitting at the table for dinner we usually talk about hockey. Everybody knows what is going on and knows how it feels to lose a game or win a game, so we know how to handle that stuff.”