MILWAUKEE – It’s not an Olympic sport, but this winter competition dates back hundreds of years -- and a small group that plays it every week in Milwaukee is trying to make sure the sport continues for hundreds more years.
“The favorite part, I could say the camaraderie, and it's nice to win, too,” said Peter Leitner, Eisstock player.
Eisstock is played just about every Tuesday morning at the Wilson Park Ice Arena in Milwaukee.
“It’s similar like bowling. You take that thing, you put yourself in position and just slide that ice stock out there and hopefully you'll be lucky to hit the other guy and end up being the winner,” Leitner explained.
Pronounced “ice shtock,” it’s easier to play than to say.
“It's a fun activity. It's somewhat similar to bocce ball. Basically you are shooting at a target and whoever gets closes to the target is the one that wins,” said Helmut Kopp, Eisstock player.
Kopp and Leitner are two of a handful of people that do whatever they can to show up weekly to play.
“I decided that I come here all year round for playing indoors and I want to be sure I make it every Tuesday,” said Leitner.
“What I love about it is the people I’m playing with. That’s the key. It’s a family. It’s more than just a team. We have no official team structure. If it looks like it's bad weather outside, we call each other -- 'well, do you want to play or you want to just sit that one out?’ But typically everyone wants to play unless it's impossible to drive on the roads,” said Kopp.
Both Leitner and Kopp have been playing the game for years after coming to America.
“I’ve been playing since the late 70s,” said Kopp.
“Since 1969. I came over in 1969 from Munich, and I started then playing outdoors like I say,” Leitner said.
Now, they worry that the sport could soon be put on ice.
“That's my main thing. I want to keep the sport alive and so do all of our friends. If we don't get any more people, sooner or later it's just going to die out and that will be a real shame,” Kopp said.
So they’re asking anyone who wants to try it, to join them Tuesday mornings at the Wilson Park Ice Arena.
“All you have to do is put your warm clothes on, put some cleats on your shoes, and anyone can play with us any time. Everyone's welcome. We always have extra stocks,” said Kopp.
“Well, I would say come on! We have extra ice stocks -- what we call them, you know. Come along and see what it's all about and let's do it. I'm sure you might get hooked, you know? It's a lot of camaraderie and a lot fun,” said Leitner.
“The key thing is people of all abilities can play. As a matter of fact, we had a guy playing with us until he was 95 years old. He just quit about a year-and-a-half ago,” Kopp said.
Kopp pretty much guarantees once you try it, you’ll be back.
“We have a 100 percent success rate. Nobody that's ever tried it has left,” Kopp said.
So if you are interested, they play every Tuesday morning between 8:30 and 10 at Wilson Park Ice Arena. That's on south 20th street and Howard.