Enjoying a tremendous momentum as the historic first pick overall in the inaugural PWHL Entry Draft, Taylor Heise is committed to elevating her game to a new dimension. Becoming the first player in league history to sign with Sense Arena, taking on the mantle of official ice hockey brand ambassador.
Highlighted by their cognitive Virtual Reality (VR) hockey platform, it holds the potential to become a highly beneficial tool for players to grow and improve their skill set. Approaching the upcoming PWHL season with strong focus, VR incorporates an essential facet of Heise’s approach towards a highly promising professional career.
Boasting an exceptional hockey resume, having worn the Stars and Stripes at the U18 and Senior Levels, Heise is already a legendary figure in her home state. Bestowed the honor of the prestigious Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award in 2018, she followed it up with a brilliant run at the NCAA level. Amassing 225 points for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, she became the third player in program history to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, joining Krissy Wendell and Amanda Kessel.
Selected by the Minnesota franchise with the first pick of the 2023 PWHL Draft, there is certainly a highly emotional sense of full circle. Reflecting on the magnitude of the Draft, held on September 18, a date poised to be integral in league lore, the combined feeling of achievement and history remains poignant for Heise. While her key focus remains preparing for the season opener, excited to share the ice with a phenomenally talented group of skaters, the Draft has already provided a career defining moment.
“Yes, it’s been an amazing time. The last two weeks have felt longer than all of summer but I am living in the moment. I have been skating and playing in Minnesota every day. Not just with some of the best players in the nation, but some of the best in the world.
With the (PWHL) season, we will come together and play and we will also play against each other. Not to take away from personal qualifications, as the Draft experience was awesome, but I am looking at what is next. Currently, I am training in preparation for training camp.”
In collaboration with her Toronto-based agent, the opportunity to connect with brands demonstrates a key step forward in the next chapter for professional women’s ice hockey players. Finding great benefit in the convenience, VR has become a revelation for Heise. Reflecting on her earlier years in the game, the distance from an arena provided a constraint, limiting ice time.
With the VR helmet becoming an essential accessory, the theme of enjoyment has quickly taken shape. Having first used said helmet during a stay in Lake Placid, the level of comfort and familiarity quickly grew upon becoming accustomed to its use.
“It was funny because we were in Lake Placid with USA Hockey and it literally rained every single day. With the headset, being without a stick, once you use it, the biggest key is finding what works. The sensory is based on your body and height. Once you have started to understand and get the concepts, it gets easier.
In hockey, I appreciate the small acceleration points. How you can improve is the forefront of VR. Growing up, the nearest rink was 30 minutes away. If I had this as a kid, my parents would have had to yank it off my head (laughs). I am very, very blessed to work with them.”
Discussing the opportunity to welcome Heise to Sense Arena, Jeff St. Vrain, the Vice President of Hockey, finds the involvement of such an elite talent goes beyond expanding brand awareness. With over two decades of experience in both product and project management, St. Vrain, having previously served in an executive role with Covetrus Inc., sees this first partnership with one of the PWHL’s stars providing an element of prestige.
“In bigger ways, we are definitely looking to ourselves with biggest brands and names in hockey. Currently, we have partnered with USA Hockey and several NHL teams.
We had Player Development Directors from USA Hockey review our drills and they approved them. People can now train anywhere and anytime.
Adding Taylor, who is using SA cognitive training, means we have a great player ambassador to promote us and take us to new levels. Her popularity has exploded since being the first overall pick and she is a marquee player.”
With a continued commitment to refine her on-ice methods, the display of adeptness reflects an admirable effort. Finding an element of enjoyment in tipping the puck, the blend of form and process are gaining new perspective with VR. Reading the puck and being able to tip in the puck from numerous angles is definitely an art form. To master such a skill involves more than hand eye coordination, but courage and good timing. Cultivating an increased confidence, Heise’s vision is poised to sharpen significantly.
“I am always looking to improve my game. Among the few drills (that) I really like is the tipping scenario. In the centre of the net, the Tip VR helps my game in practice.
Working on positive aspects, my game improves by seeing more of those plays develop. Now, I am ready and reacting, seeing the ice more.”
Undoubtedly, the opportunity for Sense Arena to establish a partnership with Heise plays a role in helping establish the stars of the PWHL as both marketable and likeable athletes. Additionally, the budding league boasts significant star power off the ice. With the involvement of the legendary Billie Jean King, plus key stakeholder Mark Walter, also the chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it adds a major league feeling.
As the presence of Heise provides Sense Arena with momentum, adding to their star power is US Olympian Lyndsey Fry. In addition to being an Ambassador for the Arizona Coyotes, and a co-founder of their Kachinas Girls Hockey program, Fry serves as an Advisory Board Member for Sense Arena. With the combined presence of such hockey luminaries, St. Vrain ponders the future of the female game with tremendous optimism, sincere in the prospect of positively evolving the approach to training while the professional game reaches a new relevance.
“With Billie Jean King and the Dodgers (chairman), to see the game come together into this singular league, it can open doors and create working relationships. We see the women”s game as a leader, the growth of the game keeps expanding.
This is really a big opportunity for women’s ice hockey to put their best foot forward. It’s great that there is a rich roster of women super capable to play. We are happy to be a part of it. Hopefully we can be a part in helping them reach their goals.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo Credit: Taylor Heise x Sense Arena