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Taylor Heise: “That Pond Is Where My Passion Started”

By Jessi Pierce, 01/09/24, 10:00AM CST


You’d probably never guess it, but Taylor Heise thought she would be a basketball star.

Yes, the same Taylor Heise that was selected first overall by PWHL Minnesota and who scored the team’s first goal in a 3-2 win against PWHL Boston on Jan. 3.

The same Taylor that won the 2022 Patty Kazmaier Award at the University of Minnesota the same year she was the point leader on the U.S. National Team at the Women’s World Championship.

Taylor Heise: the 2018 Ms. Hockey, whose No. 9 banner was unveiled at Red Wing’s Prairie Island Arena last month.

“I knew the basketball courts pretty well,” Heise said with a laugh. “I knew where every single one of them was in my hometown. The NHL never made it on our TV as kids because the NBA was always on or we’d be watching college hoops. My mom and dad played college basketball at UW-River Falls, and both my brothers play college basketball. So that was just kind of our family thing.

“But then I got a newsletter in my backpack at age 7 or 8 about coming to play hockey and thought, ‘oh, hockey sounds fun.’ So for me, it started as just something fun to do.”

That flyer quickly turned into shooting and stickhandling in the garage, visits to the outdoor ice in Lake City, and a front-yard rink where Heise developed the elite skill that’s on display today.

“That pond is where my passion started,” said Heise. “It’s a special place to me. Out there, it was always fun. You never had any anxiety. You were never nervous about anything. Pond hockey is just fun. Free.”

The Best Teacher

Heise admits she couldn’t name many hockey idols when she first started playing.

“I kind of grew up and made my own way,” she said. “I was able to take what I saw from other kids on the outdoor rink, or just learning things on my own, and kind of put it to work on my own.”

Taylor says that her type-A personality pushed her to work on the finer side of her game, too.

“I want things to be done the right way,” Heise laughed. “So for me, I just went out there and paid attention to some very detailed aspects of my game as I got older, like 12 or 13. Because that’s when I started setting some real and serious goals for myself in hockey.

“But before that, it was just to be on the ice. It was also kind of my escape from reality sometimes. I love basketball, and I love my family and everything, but hockey was just a place where I got to learn myself and go about it in a different way.”

The Cattle Barn of Creativity

Heise recalls times at different outdoor rinks where parents were present — but not in the way you’d think.

“They’d be there to open the doors – let five kids in, let five kids out, like a cattle barn,” Heise said. “Sometimes kids are losing that sense of creativity because they have so much direction and so much supervision from parents. And sure, in our culture, you need that, but it can make kids go off their rocker sometimes. Parents need to give that freedom for the game to teach the kids. Let them play outside as long as they want – within reason, of course.”

Playing unstructured hockey, inside or outdoors, lets kids have fun and develop skills in a low-pressure environment.

“The creativity I use every day, not even just in hockey but at work and at home, things like that, a lot of that stemmed from me being able to have that creative sense outside when I was a kid,” said Heise. “The biggest memories from my childhood are out there on that rink with family and friends. I’m so grateful to have had moments like that to get me started on this path.”