Local defender a force for Thunder
As he competes in his fourth season with the Airdrie Thunder, Airdrionian Taylor Crossley has become a key member for his hometown squad as they compete in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL).
Not only is the 21 year old one of the leaders of the Thunder’s defence, Crossley also serves as one of the team’s assistant captains, which makes him a player that the younger members of the team look up to.
“I definitely try to point them in the right direction,” Crossley said. “When you come into this league, you have to get used to the size of the players and the physicality out there, as it is a lot different in Junior B than from what it is in Midget.”
“So I will always be talking with the new guys and trying to make sure that they don’t feel like they are in over their heads,” he added.
For Crossley, chatting with the new players on the Thunder takes him back to when he first played for the team during the 2010-11 season, when he joined his hometown team after suiting up for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s (AJHL) Calgary Mustangs.
“It takes a little bit of time to get accustomed to things, but once you get used to it, it’s a really fun league to play in,” he said. “Personally speaking, I have always tried to stick to the same style of game that I have always had, as I’m a little bit more offensively minded as a defenceman.”
In addition to his own growth as a player, Crossley has noticed that the HJHL has become a much tighter league over the last few seasons.
“It doesn’t matter who you play against, as you can’t take anyone lightly,” he said. “All of the teams are stepping up to the same level, and that is nice to see.”
While Crossley’s time with the Thunder has been enjoyable, he’s had to deal with one major challenge in between seasons, as he missed the first part of last year with a right knee injury that he suffered while playing lacrosse for the Calgary Mountaineers.
“During one of our practices something just went, and I got the surgery for it after our trip to the nationals that season,” Crossley recalled. “In my first few skates back out on the ice, I was definitely a little bit timid, but now it’s something I hardly think about.”
“No matter what injury you have though, there is always a little bit of nervousness when you return for the first few games, as you are always worried about something popping back out,” he added.
Heading into a home game on Oct. 4 against the Stettler Lightning, the Thunder find itself coming off of its first win of the year on Sept. 28, as it took a 8-4 win on the road over the Ponoka Stampeders to improve its record to 1-3-0.
However, the team is looking to bounce back from a rough showing in its last contest at the Ron Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie, as it dropped a 6-3 decision to the Three Hills Thrashers on Sept. 27.
“That loss stung a lot, especially since we lost in our own barn, as that is not how we typically play,” Crossley said. “Our biggest issue right now is with our communication, as we have been having a lot of breakdowns in our defensive zone, and that is something we need to fix.”
“We do have a lot of good speed and we have a great group of guys here, and we just need to utilize our quickness and to just build our chemistry in order to be successful.”
While Crossley’s main goal for this year is to win the HJHL title, he has also thought a lot about what will happen after the season ends, as he will age out of the junior hockey ranks.
“I’ll probably end up joining a beer league or do a little bit of coaching,” Crossley, who is working on an accounting degree at the University of Calgary, said. “I’ve been involved in hockey for way too long to just quit it.”