MINNEAPOLIS — For the first overall pick in this new Professional Women's Hockey League draft, there's an appreciation. Taylor Heise didn't have to face the grind that most women's pro hockey players did.
"Very, very grateful for those who did, you know, the back-work of getting up at five in the morning because there wasn't ice the rest of the day and they had to go work their second job," said Heise. "All those things where, you know, I didn't have to do them, but like they did. That's just something that you always have to circle back to and be grateful for."
This Minnesotan-heavy roster is still being filled out in an extended training camp. Games won't start until early January.
Lee Stecklein has experienced the gamut of women's professional hockey in the United States since turning pro in 2018.
"I'm really excited to be a part of Team Minnesota because we just love to play hockey," said Stecklein. "We want to play a free style of hockey. And so all of this prep is awesome, but once those games start, I know our team is going to have really good chemistry."
There's a built-in chemistry for many players. Maybe none more than Heise and Grace Zumwinkle, who were Gophers a year ago, came up together, and are teammates on the national team.
"(Zumwinkle) works the hardest I've ever seen anyone work in my entire life and ... I've known her since she was like 10. So I would say she's someone that I can't get away from, but that I wouldn't want to leave at the same point," said Heise.
Those two are an example of the team's world-class talent. Head coach Charlie Burggraf will lean on his top tier players, a necessity for this small, six-team league.
"The level of play now with six teams is going to be very high," said Burggraf. "There will be some changes in the style of play, adjustments. They're still going to be very impactful because, use the word superstars, but they are. They stand out. You can see them anywhere, but they need support out on the ice, too."
"It feels weird," said Stecklein. "You've been focused so long on such this big picture. And now you're here with the team and you get to just focus on yourselves and each other. So that's been awesome. But to get, I know, some of those first inaugural games in, it's gonna feel I think, really momentous."
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