Hailing from the small town of Ayr, Ontario, Taylor Trussler — the captain of the Varsity Blues women’s ice hockey team — has been playing hockey since a young age.
“I think my dad was the reason I started playing hockey because he [had] always played [hockey] growing up,” Trussler explained in an interview with The Varsity. “So I think he probably pushed me a bit to play it as well.”
In her early career, Trussler played in boys divisions, an experience that “helped develop [her] as a player.” Nevertheless, once she hit grade nine, she began playing on a women’s team. “[That’s when] I kind of realized that you know, maybe going to play in university was an option for me,” Trussler said.
After grade nine, Trussler transitioned away from her local team in Ayr and began playing in Brantford. Soon after, she began playing for the Cambridge Rivulettes in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL).
During her time with the Rivulettes, she was the top scorer with six goals during 13 postseason games. That phenomenal form has continued into her tenure with the Varsity Blues. In her second year playing, she scored a hat trick in the second game of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinals against the Toronto Metropolitan University Bold. She was named an OUA East first-team all-star in her third year and an OUA East second-team all-star in her fourth year. Additionally, Trussler has won the McCaw Cup — the trophy awarded to the OUA hockey champions — twice, in 2020 and 2023.
Yet, a defining moment with the Blues for Trussler was experiencing nationals and witnessing all the hockey talent there. “Obviously, we don’t know what it is like to win nationals, but [I’m sure] it’s a special feeling to win… [and] share that [joy] with all your teammates.”
Each year, there are eight teams at nationals, and in 2019–2020 as well as 2022–2023, the Blues have been beaten in the quarter-finals by the Mount Royal Cougars, a team from Alberta. Trussler says these results have motivated her and fueled her passion to work hard.
On a personal note, Jarome Iginla — a winger on the Calgary Flames and Trussler’s and her father’s favourite player — remains an idol in her life. Trussler recalled meeting Iginla as a child and being starstruck at the opportunity to see her idol in real life. According to Trussler, Iginla was “very smart” and “hardworking” — two qualities she believes to be integral for a player on the ice.
Many of Trussler’s strong values have translated onto the ice and through the team. “Our [team] slogan is ‘Pride, Heart, Passion’ and [Taylor] exemplifies that,” Vicky Sunohara, the head coach for the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team, said in an email to The Varsity.
“[Taylor] never loses her cool,” Natasha Athanasakos, the Blues’ assistant captain, added in an interview with The Varsity. “She sets a great example, which is the first part of being a leader… [We’re also] not intimidated by her, but [the team] respects her, which is awesome. And we’re very lucky to have her.
Athanasakos continued to speak very highly of Trussler and her impact on the team’s morale. Trussler embodies what the Blues women’s hockey program is all about, a sentiment Sunohara agrees with. “She doesn’t [take] a practice off, [and] she doesn’t take a shift off,” Sunohara wrote. “She’s somebody in our program that we always want.”
As a leader, Trussler believes in setting an example for her team. “Everyone’s gonna do their own thing. So I think just setting a good example on the ice and giving your team something to look up to [by] working hard in practice, as well as [in] games, is really important,” Trussler explained. This also applies away from the ice — setting an example in the gym makes the team better on ice.
This current season, the team — the defending McCaw Cup champions — are focusing on reaching their long-term goals and putting their best foot forward at nationals. Mainly, they hope to improve communication on the ice, better their game flow confidence while playing, and instill good habits throughout the season.
Currently in her fifth year, Trussler is taking non-degree-seeking courses to finish her final year of OUA eligibility.
Trussler is no stranger to demanding schedules and dedicated work. “It’s exhausting having to skate or work every day. So it definitely takes a toll on you,” Trussler said. “I’ve struggled with [it] every year, but you just got to kind of find the motivation.” In her first two years, Trussler struggled to balance hockey and school; however, as the year passed, she learned to make the most of her time outside the rink and found a balance and rhythm.
Beyond U of T, Trussler has considered possibly entering the police force. “I don’t know, it just seems interesting, like [there’s] something new every day when you show up to work,” Trussler explained. Ideally, though, Trussler hopes to play hockey in Europe — or in the newly formed PWHL — and develop her skills some more. Overall, Trussler hopes to continue playing hockey and will deeply miss her team at U of T after graduation.