Taylor Heise’s hockey career rooted in Minnesota, from Red Wing H.S. to the Gophers to Minnesota’s WPHL franchise

posted in: News | 0

Taylor Heise recently settled into an apartment in the shadow of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis. Or, to pinpoint the location another way, right in the heart of Taylor Territory.

She’s just across the Mississippi River from Dinkytown, where, as a member of the Gophers women’s hockey team, she completed a college career last year that featured more than 200 points and a Patty Kazmaier Award in 2022 as the best player in women’s college hockey.

A scenic drive south along the Mississippi leads to her childhood home in Lake City. Just up the road is Red Wing High School, where Heise’s impact on the game began to take shape. Heise can get to Blaine in 20 minutes, where she trains as a member of the U.S. women’s national team.

And now, the East Metro is represented, with Heise about to play her first game as a member of the Minnesota franchise in the new Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), which will play its home games at Xcel Energy Center.

It’s all so convenient. It’s all so perfect.

“Home sweet home,” Heise said.

The 23-year old center was prepared to play for any of the other five teams in the new league when it was formed earlier this year, but Minnesota general manager Natalie Darwitz, another Gophers hockey legend, swooped her up with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and quickly signed her to a three-year deal.

Her adoring fan base (Heisers?) surely is about to grow.

The thought of it all has brought tears to Heise’s eyes.

“To be able to connect all my time in hockey,” she said, “and to have the same fans continuing over and over, it’s super special.”

Heise was back in Red Wing on Tuesday night for a ceremony at the high school that featured her No. 9 jersey being raised to the rafters.

“Kids were coming up to me afterward,” Heise said, “and saying things like, ‘My parents just bought me a (PWHL) ticket for Christmas. That just melts your heart. I could never have said that to somebody because there wasn’t the opportunity.”

Heise said she wore No. 9 in honor of her favorite player, former Wild center Mikko Koivu.

“My claim to fame is that I babysat his daughter one time,” Heise said. “My friend lived next door to him, and I was star struck.”

Now she’ll be playing professionally in the same rink that Koivu called home, wearing a new uniform and her new number of choice, 27, that carries over from her Gophers days.

“(Wild goaltender) Marc-Andre Fleury came by (the practice rink) recently and told us how excited he was for us,” Heise said, “and happy that we finally got what we’ve been working for. That means the world. It’s something that’s genuine.”

Heise anticipates again being “overcome with emotion” when she takes the ice her home debut on January 6.

“It’s going to be such a special moment, not just for me but for women’s hockey,” she said.

As a face of the franchise, Heise will continue to be out in the public promoting the team and the women’s game. She will do so, she said, while making sure her on-ice commitment is not compromised.

To that end, her apartment will not sit empty.

“I recharge alone,” she said. “I’m an introvert in that sense. Most people wouldn’t think so because I can talk anyone’s ear off. But I love my alone time.

“I love to sit down on the couch and watch a movie. Just chill. I’m an over-doer, so sometimes you just have to take that time off. But I know after a game I might be tired, but putting on that brave face and saying high to little kids — that means the world to them.”

Heise earned an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and is on schedule to add a Masters degree in Sports Management this summer. She’s likely to work in the sports field in some capacity when her playing days are over, but the emergence of the PWHL has helped push those possibilities down the line.

“The doors are open for me,’ she said, “but I’m going to get schooled in (pro) hockey here pretty soon, and we’ll see where that leads me. As long as my body can keep doing it and I love it, I’m going to keep playing.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.