Taylor Heise reflects on her unconventional hockey beginnings

MINNEAPOLIS – "Pretty much taught myself the rules of the game and how to play hockey," said Gopher women's hockey's fifth-year star forward Taylor Heise. "My parents learned with me, which I think was something that benefited me."

One of the best in the sport could have easily gone down a different path.

"The ice rink was more of an escape for me I think. Basketball was definitely something that I was born into," she said.

Heise's family was at home on the hardcourt, not the ice. Her parents both played basketball at UW-River Falls. Unlike Taylor, her brothers followed suit.

"They pushed me every day. I'd play one-on-one outside," she said. "We had three different hoops. You had to make a certain amount of free throws before you went in for dinner."

Raised in Lake City, Heise was in a unique predicament. There was no hockey program at Lake City High School. So the difficult choice had to be made, to attend Red Wing Schools, starting in seventh grade.

"I will never forget it. Like I cried a few times about it. I was a really [a] homebody kid. I loved my parents. I loved being at home," she said. "Every time I'd go to USA Hockey camps I'd cry in the car."

The sacrifice paid off. Heise was named Ms. Hockey and earned a scholarship to play for the Gophers.

"I think if I took the safe route, I would be playing basketball in the middle of Iowa or something," she said.  

Taylor Heise reflects on her unconventional hockey beginnings - Funny Happy New Years Eve Gifts
Taylor Heise


Compare that to the 2021-22 season, when Heise won the top honor in women's college hockey, becoming the third Gopher to win the Patty Kazmaier Award. Heise has the video of the announcement saved as a favorite on her phone.

"I'm literally like clutching the side of my chair," she said. "Just seeing the expressions on everyones' faces when I won, it makes me feel like I'm doing something right."

Her biggest career disappointment is not making the U.S. Olympic team in 2022, one her teammates Grace Zumwinkle and Abbey Murphy did.

"Not making something, my parents were like, 'I'm not gonna tell you anything. We're excited to see how you come out of this,'" she said.

She came out of it well, tallying more points than anyone in the country, and is on a similar pace this year, as Minnesota aims for their first national championship since 2016.

"Goals come no matter what on our team because we have so many talented people in so many great spots," she said. "It's gonna be good."

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