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Evan Sporer | October 14, 2014

The other Crosby

Taylor Crosby's path from Sid's kid sister to Northeastern University goaltender

It happened rather suddenly.

"I woke up and just decided I wanted to play, I guess," she said. Before that, it was a childhood not filled with sports, but other activities.

"It was mostly just -- I was a little girl, playing with Barbies, and all that kind of stuff," she added. "I never really showed interest until this one day I kind of just decided I wanted to."

The way she describes her adolescence, like her sudden interest in hockey, is quite ordinary. And yet for Taylor Crosby, growing up in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia watching her older brother Sidney age into the greatest hockey player on the planet, it's not difficult for one to see why Taylor decided to lace up the skates and grab a stick.

But as the younger Crosby has matured -- graduating from the pee wee ranks, to other youth programs, to prep hockey, to international competitions, and as of this fall, to the collegiate ranks -- it's been less about Sidney, and more about herself, carving out her own path.

This is the story of Taylor, not the little sister to Sidney, attempting to match his accolades and follow his blueprint stride-for-stride. But Taylor Crosby, the 18-year-old freshman at Boston's Northeastern University, hoping to pen her own identity and make a name for herself.

"I don't want any shortcuts, I don't want people to go easy on me, I want to go in, and work, and show them that I'm a hard worker and can play at this level," said Crosby. "That's not just for other people, but to prove to myself as well that I'm able to play at this level and be the best goalie that I can."

Hockey was not always on Crosby's radar. There were the aforementioned days spent as a spectator, not a participant. In fact, when Crosby finally did get the urge to play, she said it took her a couple of years to convince parents Troy and Trina to let her try it out.

"I don't think they wanted me to play because I had been growing up watching my brother. They wanted me to play for me."

"I just went up to them one day and said I wanted to be a goalie," Crosby said, "but I don't think they wanted me to play because I had been growing up watching my brother. They wanted me to play for me. So it took a couple of years, and then they let me play finally, and I loved it ever since."

That break finally came at age 10, when Crosby was given the greenlight to try out hockey for the first time. At around 12 or 13, Crosby estimated she made the switch to playing with boys. Cole Harbour, and greater Halifax, is no stranger to prominent youth players, seeing them go on to succeed at higher levels. It's a town that also produced Nathan MacKinnon. The local junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads, has housed talents such as Jonathan Drouin, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Alex Tanguay.

"Honestly, living here, you don't even think about all those people who have come out of here," Crosby said. "You don't realize it. You just think of them back when they were at the rink.

"You look up at the stands and everyone is cheering. It's just kind of like a hometown place. It's not elaborate, it's not fancy. It's just a great place where everyone loves hockey, and they share that enthusiasm."

Eventually, hockey became more serious for Crosby, who said she also played baseball and participated in horseback riding as a child.

"I was playing with some girls who aren't playing anymore, but I could just tell that I wanted to be competitive and I wanted to go further," she said. "Part of it was watching Sidney and watching him succeed and work so hard."

That drive and desire to continue her hockey career led Crosby to elect to leave home for her high school days and attend Shattuck-St. Mary's, a prep school in Minnesota known for producing outstanding hockey talent.

"Obviously I missed being home, and I missed my parents and family, but there's really no other place like [Shattuck]," Crosby said. "From a hockey standpoint, it was great just because I was surrounded by not only girls, but also other athletes and students that wanted to do so well, and worked hard.

"Overall that not only helped me as a player, but as a person."

Older brother Sidney only attended Shattuck for one year. The program's list of male alumni reads something like an all-star team, featuring the likes of Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, MacKinnon, Derek Stepan, Kyle Okposo, and so the list goes on.

But it's also a hotbed for women's hockey, producing talents like Amanda Kessel, Brianna Decker, and Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, all of whom were members of the 2014 silver medal USA team in Sochi. In total, Gordie Stafford, head coach of the girls prep team, estimated that among the 34 NCAA Division 1 women's programs, Shattuck currently has at least two dozen active players right now.

And with that kind of pedigree, Stafford also said Crosby had to improve her game when she arrived at the Minnesota campus.

"Actually when she came to us in ninth grade, she had a relatively steep learning curve to make herself into the player that she was at the end," he said. "She's a very athletic kid. It took her a while to grow into her body, and that's specifically difficult for a goalie."

What immediately stood out to Stafford, he said, was that Crosby didn't expect anything to be handed to her because of her brother.

"That's all sort of noise that comes from the outside," Stafford said. "At Shattuck, we're used to having, for lack of better words, high-profile kids there.

Taylor Crosby in uniform at Shattuck-St. Mary's. (Faribault Daily News)

"Taylor is her own person."

By her junior year, Crosby led Shattuck into the national championship game on the strength of a 1-0 shutout against the Buffalo Bisons in the national semifinal, a performance that stands out now to Stafford.

"She's always sort of believed in herself, but she put her belief in herself together with a game that we really needed, and she built on that," Stafford said.

Shattuck would go on to lose in the championship round, and in the months after finishing up her junior season, Crosby received a phone call from a coach whom she'd lost contact with: Dave Flint of Northeastern.

"We talked a little bit, and for one reason or another we hadn't communicated in a while," Flint said. "Then last summer, I checked in with her, and gave her a phone call, and brought her in for an official visit.

"She liked it. I liked her as a kid, really liked her work ethic, and saw a lot of potential in her. And the rest is history."

Crosby wasn't heavily recruited, and said she liked both the athletic and academic fit Northeastern presented. There was also the lure of Flint, who has served on USA Hockey's coaching staff on the women's side since 2005, and has been the team's goaltending advisor since 2008. More recently at Northeastern, Flint coached Florence Schelling, who propelled Switzerland to a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics, winning both MVP and Best Goalkeeper honors, and is widely considered the best female goalie in the world.

"You hear the names that have gone through the program, and you assume that there's something or someone that has helped them along the way," Crosby said. "Obviously coach Flint is a huge part of that."

Like Stafford, Flint said it was immediately clear in his early interactions with Crosby what her goals were coming into the program, and what she hoped to achieve on her own merit.

"She said, ‘coach, all I want is an opportunity,' and I said, ‘well, you're going to get an opportunity here, that's for sure,'" Flint recalled. "She's a kid who's not looking for any handouts, or any promises, she just said, ‘give me the opportunity, and I'll make the best of it.'"

When that opportunity may come is a bit unclear. Northeastern has an incumbent senior goalie in Chloe Desjardins who Flint pegged as the odds-on starter. But Crosby seemed less focused on becoming the immediate number one versus simply pitching in.

"Coach Flint, he's a great coach, he knows whether you're the senior or a freshman, he's going to play the goalie that is playing the best," she said. "I felt like I was going to have an opportunity to work hard and maybe play, or to push the senior goalie to play better."

matthews arena
Historic Matthews Arena is home to the Northeastern University hockey program. (Wikipedia)

***

Crosby's earliest hockey memories aren't of lugging around a milk carton over a frozen pond learning how to skate, but watching her older brother play against competition a few years older than him -- and thus, bigger than him.

"I hated when people would hit him because he was so much smaller," Taylor said. "When we were growing up, I was very protective of him; he was my older brother, no one messes with him-they have to mess with me kind of thing.

"I guess I was in the stands, and I was along the boards, and I would yell at the other players.

"I hated when people would hit him because he was so much smaller ... I was in the stands, and I was along the boards, and I would yell at the other players."

"I was probably four or five, yelling at them, telling them to stop hitting him."

But being exposed to hockey at such a young age, even as an observer, has helped Crosby to understand its intricacies.

"When you're three years old, you're not really listening, but in a way I am, because I learned how to act, or how to dress," she said. "Just little things like that I grew up around, and not that many people have the same experience.

"I was kind of lucky I got to see a really good person grow up, and how he carried himself."

As much as their lives will always be intertwined, Crosby is doing her best to relinquish the role of disciple and graduate to a new rank. In his own regard, Sidney is doing his own part to provide his younger sister with that space.

In an attempt to be reached for interview for this story, Penguins PR said Sidney was not fulfilling requests at the time, and added "[Sidney] is probably Taylor's biggest fan, but allows her to be herself and not take too much attention from her - therefore, it's really rare that he does interviews about her."

The hockey memories they share are quite few and far between. Taylor recalled a brief session in Cole Harbour when Sidney took shots on her. "I stopped him a few times; it was pretty fun."

Stafford recalled a game at Shattuck during the 2012-13 NHL lockout that Sidney attended with both Troy and Trina.

"That was a moment for her because he hadn't seen her play in years," Stafford said. "Again, take away the notoriety of her brother, and it was just a wonderful family."

The pair rarely talks about hockey, according to Taylor. Most conversations are about school, or social life, or just joking around.

"He's more of a father I guess; he's a bit older than I am," she said. "He's an older, protective brother, so more of a dad, but we're really close. We're close, but we both live very hectic lives."

taylor crosby with sid and family
Sidney, Taylor and their parents, Troy and Trina, pose for a photo at the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. (Dave Sandford / NHLI / Getty Images)

***

The options for adult female hockey players are scant compared to those for males. Competitions like the Olympics offer them opportunities to continue to play, and professional women's hockey is limited to a small five-team league, the CWHL.

In some ways, Crosby is like the millions of other college freshmen entering their first year: wide-eyed, with the future and the abstract concept of a job in the back of their heads.

"I've probably gone around every single job there is and thought that I would like to do it, and gone back to it five times now," she said. "It's a huge decision, and I didn't think it was going to be this hard for me."

Crosby is like the millions of other college freshmen entering their first year: wide-eyed, with the future and the abstract concept of a job in the back of their heads.

Growing up, Crosby said she told everyone she was going to be a veterinarian, a path she decided wasn't right for her toward the end of her time at Shattuck. Northeastern offers a five-year program that requires students to complete two co-op -- extended six month internships that take the place of classes for a semester -- meaning Crosby will have plenty of time to decide on whatever best suits her professionally.

"I've looked at different courses at Northeastern and thought, ‘oh wow, that sounds really interesting,' but I have no idea," she said. "I hope that whatever I decide to do I love it and I'm happy."

Crosby said she's more focused on immediate goals: making the transition to college life and Boston (Crosby insists she won't become a Bruins fan), staying on top of her schoolwork, and becoming a better hockey player.

And at the top of that to-do list is authoring the story of Taylor Crosby, whatever that may be.

"She's very, very proud of her brother, and she's very very proud of her family, but she also has a strong desire to create her own destiny," said Stafford, "and that's kind of what's really cool about her."

Editor: Travis Hughes | Top photo: Northeastern University | Special thanks: Faribault Daily News, Northeastern Athletics, Taylor Crosby | Product: Lauren Rabaino

Evan Sporer How did you get started with hockey?

Taylor Crosby I was 10 when I started, but it took a couple of years to convince my parents to let me play. I just went up to them one day and said I wanted to be a goalie, but I don’t think they wanted me to play because I had been growing up watching my brother, they wanted me to play for me. So it took a couple of years, and then they let me play finally, and I loved it ever since.

I’m not quite sure of the answer. I woke up and just decided I want to play, I guess. I don’t know if it was just constantly watching it all the time and being around it that I fell in love with it, but when I was younger I didn’t play sports much. It was mostly just—I was a little girl, playing with Barbies, and all that kind of stuff. I never really showed interest until this one day I kind of just decided I wanted to.

I was really excited. The first time I ever went on, I was nervous to start, but once I got a few shots, it felt right, which sounds kind of silly. I knew that’s what I wanted to do; be a goalie.

I played with the girls for a while, and then for a year I made the switch over to boys. Both experiences were awesome; I made a lot of good friends. Looking back on that, I look back more for the friendships than the experience. Waking up early and going to the rink, I had that full experience, which was fun.

Evan SporerI know a lot of hockey players have come out of Cole Harbour. Can you describe the environment, both hockey and just the type of place it is?

Taylor Crosby Honestly, living here, you don’t even think about all those people who have come out of here. You don’t realize it. You just kind of think of think of them back when they were at the rink. You look up at the stands, and everyone is cheering; it’s just kind of like a hometown place. It’s not elaborate, it’s not fancy, it’s just a great place where everyone loves hockey, and they share that enthusiasm.

Evan SporerAt what point did hockey become serious?

Taylor Crosby You just know; it’s one of those things that when you’re playing—and I was playing with some girls who aren’t playing anymore—but I could just tell that I wanted to be competitive, and I wanted to go further. Part of it was watching Sidney, and watching him succeed and work so hard. That was something I wanted to do as well. He’s my role model, so obviously I want to be like him. I want to do things to the best of my ability, and be like him in that regard. I was always competitive my whole life, it just kind of came out when I started to play hockey. I wanted to go on, and see how far hockey could take me.

Evan SporerWhy Northeastern?

Taylor CrosbyI looked at different schools, and I was trying to find a place where I would be able to play, but also be able to do well in school. Just going there, I knew it was a great school going in, but as soon as I walked into the rink and I saw it, it was almost emotional, but it was kind of nice because I could see myself skating onto the ice, or making a save. That was kind of what made me know that was the place. Taking a step back from it, a couple of days later from the visit, I looked at how much it was going to give me. Coach Flint; he’s a great coach, he knows whether you’re the senior or a freshman, he’s going to play the goalie that is playing the best. I felt like I was going to have an opportunity to work hard and maybe play, or to push the senior goalie to play better.

I loved it. It was kind of funny because [Coach Flint] was saying that he’s brought in a bunch of Canadians for recruits, and all the Canadians just love the rink; the old rink even though it’s about to collapse any second. It’s awesome; it just has so much history, and that’s what makes it so unique.

Evan SporerWhat was your experience like at Shattuck-St. Mary's?

Taylor Crosby It was awesome. Obviously, I missed being home, and I missed my parents and family, but there’s really no other place like it. From a hockey standpoint, it was great just because I was surrounded by not only girls, but also other athletes and students that wanted to do so well, and worked hard. Overall that not only helped me as a player, but as a person.

Not so much. He went there for a year, and going there, I felt like my own person. That I was creating my own path I guess you could say. When I look at my brother, it’s more as a person and my big brother, not as the Pittsburgh Penguin.

Evan SporerDid Northeastern’s history of producing quality female goalies play a role in your decision?

Taylor Crosby You hear the names that have gone through the program, and you assume that there’s something or someone that has helped them along the way. Obviously Coach Flint is a huge part of that. When I came on my visit, talking to him over the summer, he seemed like he’s not just going to help me, but Chloe and Sarah as well become the best goalies that we can.

Evan SporerHow big was the transition to Boston and to college life?

Taylor Crosby Shattuck has really prepared me. I was lucky enough to have the experience before having to go and experience college life The on-ice stuff and the off-ice workouts are more challenging, But if you work hard, and if you listen, everything kind of works itself out.

Evan SporerIn 2013, you were one of 15 goalies invited to a Hockey Canada camp. What was that experience like?

Taylor CrosbyWhen I found out that I was going to be trying out, it was kind of last minute, and it was overwhelming because I had no idea that it was coming. Obviously it was a huge honor. It’s something that’s kind of indescribable because it’s not just your province now; it’s your country. To be named amongst so many other great goalies and other players, it was awesome. It was definitely an eye-opening experience seeing kind of where I needed to be, and where I was compared to the other girls who had been in the program a little longer than I was.

Evan SporerWhat do you hope to get out of your time at Northeastern?

Taylor Crosby Habits, and just being a hard worker. When hockey is over, I plan to work out, and still be in shape, so just being around other girls that want that same thing; that will help.

Evan SporerWhen people mention Taylor Crosby, what do you want them to think? How do you want to be known?

Taylor CrosbyThe hard work, and just being a good person. I know at Shattuck, my goalie coach there, he was always talking about being a good person, and how that makes a huge difference in everything whether it’s on the ice, or off the ice. That’s something that is a big part of hockey; being a good person, and being respectful, and polite, along with working hard.

Evan SporerWhat drives you now to get better?

Taylor Crosby Just going to a new school and a new place, and trying to make and name for myself. I don’t want any shortcuts, I don’t want people to go easy on me, I want to go in, and work, and show them that I’m a hard worker and can play at this level. That’s what’s been motivating me all summer. That’s a huge compliment to hear that from him.

Evan SporerHow important is it to prove right away you’re not looking for any shortcuts?

Taylor CrosbyThe whole summer, that’s what I wanted to do, to prove that I was a hard worker, and that I didn’t want any shortcuts. That’s not just for other people, but to prove to myself as well that I’m able to play at this level, and be the best goalie that I can.

Evan SporerDo you have anyone else you look up to in the hockey community, female or male?

Taylor Crosby Not a specific person, but I see many people, whether they are Canadian athletes and have gone on, or whether they’re just someone in the gym I see working out. I always find the people who are doing the extra sprints, or doing the extra reps in the weight room. Those are the kind of people I look up to who motivate me when I’m doing my own workouts, or whatever it is.

Evan SporerWhat is the sibling dynamic like between you and Sid?

Taylor Crosby He’s more of a father I guess; he’s a bit older than I am. He’s an old, protective brother, so more of a dad, but we’re really close. We’re close, but we both live very hectic lives. When we talk, it’s good. We’re able to joke around, or talk about hockey, or school.

Evan SporerHave you had the chance to play with Sidney?

Taylor Crosby A couple of times he shot on me, just him and I were on the ice. I stopped him a few times; it was pretty fun.

Evan SporerWhere do you see yourself in 10 years from now, in a dream scenario?

Taylor CrosbyRight now, I just hope that I have played four years of hockey, I had a lot of fun, and maybe have a good job. But as far as a career, I’m just kind of looking at this year and these upcoming years because I have a lot of time to worry about that.

Evan SporerIf not hockey, then what?

Taylor CrosbyI probably would be going to school right now and be playing different sports. I loved horseback riding; I played baseball for quite a while, and played that competitively. It was something that I loved to do, so those would be the things I probably would be doing, plus going to school.

Evan SporerWhat are your impressions of Boston, the city?

Taylor Crosby I really enjoy Boston. It’s pretty similar to [Halifax] in that it’s right near the water, and it’s kind of like a city, and then has these smaller areas. It’s kind of nice in that it’s similar to home, and it’s nice to go down and have all these cool different places, like restaurants, and stores. It seems like a great hockey city as well. I know they’re huge Bruins fans, and they really love their hockey, and their baseball, of course.

Evan SporerWere there other schools you considered with Northeastern?

Taylor Crosby Not really. I always said that I was going to go to school closer to home, and there really wasn’t anyone else that had the same impact on me.

Evan SporerAre you going to become a Bruins fan?

Taylor CrosbyI don’t think I’ll become a Bruins fan. I’ll definitely respect them and let them cheer, but I don’t think I’ll be a Bruins fan.

Evan SporerAny funny/embarrassing hockey moments with Sidney?

Taylor Crosby It’s more embarrassing for me. I used to watch him when I was younger, and he was always two or three years younger than some of the other players on his team. We were watching a game at the Sports Plex, and I hated when people would hit him because he was so much smaller. When we were growing up, I was very protective of him; he was my older brother, no one messes with him—they have to mess with me kind of thing. I guess I was in the stands, and I was along the boards, and I would yell at the other players. I was probably four or five, yelling at them, telling them to stop hitting him.

It was the first and only time I had ever been pulled—knock on wood—and I was going out for a penalty shot. I went up to stop, and there was a divot in the ice. When I went up to stop, I pushed backwards, and my skate got caught, and I fell right on my back. This game had already been going terrible; it was the worst game I had ever played in my life. Everything was going the wrong way. I feel, and I was like, ‘I’m done; there’s no point in trying to get up.’ So I was lying on my back, and a girl kind of just walked around me and scored on this penalty shot. It was in the nicest rink ever, and I was so excited to play, and it ended up being the worst game ever.

I’ve been around hockey my whole life, and when you’re three years old, you’re not really listening, but in a way I am, because I learned how to act, or how to dress. Just little things like that I grew up around, and not that many people have the same experience. I was kind of lucky I got to see a really good person grow up, and how he carried himself.

Evan SporerAny professional aspirations?

Taylor CrosbyI’ve probably gone around every single job there is and thought that I would like to do it, and gone back to it five times now. It’s a huge decision, and I didn’t think it was going to be this hard for me. Growing up, I always said I was going to be a vet, and kind of when my time at Shattuck was winding down, I decided that wasn’t going to be the right fit for me now. I’ve looked at different courses at Northeastern and thought, ‘oh wow, that sounds really interesting,’ but I have no idea. I hope that whatever I decide to do I love it, and I’m happy.

Evan SporerDo you use any time management strategies when it comes to juggling the responsibilities of being a student-athlete?

Taylor Crosby Staying on top of things, I know that things can get busy and hectic. When homework and tests and all that gets behind, that’s when it starts to get stressful. Making sure that you’re staying on top of things, and not leaving every single thing until the last minute, that kind of helps. Not only in making sure that it’s done well, but also personally, I get super stressed out. Just making sure you’re on top of things, and making that commitment to not watch Netflix or go out with friends, but to make sure that when you have to do something, you do it, and not just wait until the next day.

Evan SporerWhen Sidney travels to Boston, is he invited to Northeastern practice?

Taylor Crosby It wouldn’t be embarrassing, it would just be a little weird. He is my older brother, but it would be the same as if your older brother came to practice. It would just be like, ‘why are you coaching; why are you coaching me?’ Even if you are a good hockey player, it’s just like, ‘what are you doing?’

Evan SporerA lot of criticism has been aimed at Pittsburgh’s goaltending situation. Are you ready if you get the call?

Taylor Crosby(laughs) Of course, I would go there in a second.

About the Author

Evan is an NHL contributor for SBNation.com, as well as Blueshirt Banter and SB Nation College Hockey. He’s originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., where he grew up rooting for the Rangers, and is an admitted Wade Redden apologist.

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