Outdoors

This little-known sport from Europe is the ultimate winter cottage activity

an ice stock paddle on a frozen lake with mountains in the background Photo by FooTToo/Shutterstock

On lakes, ponds, and in a few established leagues across Canada, a name is quietly being made, or rather, remade, for a little-known sport called ice stock sport (sometimes called ice stock, or stocksport). If you’re a Canadian at all worth your salt, you’ve probably played, or at least watched, a game of hockey or curling. Now, it’s time to give ice stock sport a try!

The sport is “a cross between bocce ball and curling,” says Karl Hammer, president of the South Frontenac Stocksport Club (SFSC). Players try to hit a “daube,” or target, with stocks—objects similar to curling stones, but lighter and made to slide along ice with swappable bottoms to increase or decrease their speed. Unlike curling, ice stock sport can be played on rough surfaces like lake or pond ice. The game requires little to no skill to enjoy, and the target is non-stationary. “That makes it more exciting,” says Hammer.

Two teams of four are needed to play, and points are calculated at the end of each inning, after all eight players have thrown their stocks. The team with the closest stock is awarded three points and two additional points for each of their stocks that landed closer to the daube than the nearest opponent’s. The tricky part? The daube can move if hit directly, making the game wonderfully dynamic. At the end of six innings, the team with the most points wins.

Officially introduced in the 1930s in Germany, the game spread throughout Europe and eventually made its way to Canada decades later. Ice stock sport enjoyed demonstrations at two Olympic games, once in Germany in 1936, and a second time in Austria in 1964.

When Hammer’s opa, also named Karl, first arrived in Canada from Austria in the 1960s, he helped found one of the first Austrian ice stock sport clubs in Kingston, Ont., and eventually an entire league. In fact, the club Hammer’s opa founded, originally called the Kingston Eisstock Club, was the precursor to the very club Hammer now runs. At the SFSC, Hammer’s goal is simple: We want it to be something that appreciates its heritage, but that is ultimately a Canadian sport.”

When, exactly, ice stock sport will reach hockey-like levels of popularity here in Canada is unknown, but enthusiasts are hopeful that the passion for the sport in places like Europe will soon replicate here. “There are over 110,000 registered players in Austria alone,” says Chris Biber, a recreational ice stock sport player and cottager on Newboro Lake, about an hour north of Kingston. “I’ve always been perplexed as to why this sport seems relatively unknown here in Canada,” he says. Not only because we have ideal conditions to play the game, but also because the game is so accessible: “Once you have the stocks, all you need to play is some ice and some players,” says Biber.

With the sport being so easy to learn and not too physically demanding, ice stock sport seems like the ultimate cottage activity for the whole family to try this winter. But before you gear up and head to the ice, take a safety tip from Hammer: “Everyone should be wearing ice grippers on their shoes so they don’t fall.”

Afterwards, Hammer suggests enjoying some Glühwein (German mulled wine), a warm-up by the fire inside, and a family dinner to top it all off. Sign us up!

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