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US Hockey Hall of Fame

Young proved versatile, valuable en route to U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

Retired forward lauded as 'Swiss Army knife' during NHL, international career

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

The path that led Scott Young to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame began in the basement of the three-apartment building he lived in growing up in Clinton, Massachusetts. 

It was there that his father, Joe, an electrical engineer, fit together some pipes to construct a regulation-size net. Having heard that his idol, former Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr, honed his skills by shooting top right, top left, lower left, lower right, Young followed that pattern repeatedly, firing pucks off the basement's rough cement floor, strengthening his wrists and developing the heavy shot that helped him score 342 goals over his 17 NHL seasons.

"I went down in that dank, stinky basement and I just shot pucks," Young said. "You didn't have the stuff they shoot off that you can buy in the store today. It was just shooting off the cement. There was a dead bat lying next to me because we had bats in the house all the time, but I was just a little kid and I thought it was awesome."

For building that net and much more, Young said his father, who died in 1999, and 85-year-old mother, Barbara, are the first ones who deserve thanking when he makes his acceptance speech at the 2017 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel on Dec. 13. Also to be inducted that night are former coaches Ron Wilson, Jack Parker and Ben Smith, and retired NHL linesman Kevin Collins. 

"My parents, I'm going to thank them because of the attitude they raised me with," Young said. "There was never any pressure. There was never a plan that, 'OK, you're going to go here and then you've got to play [at a Division I college] and then, hopefully, you'll be in the NHL.' It had nothing to do with that. They just wanted to come watch me play hockey. They were very excited that I was happy and that made them happy. That was it. 

"And hockey led the way. It opened doors."

Those doors took Young, now 50, from St. Mark's High School in Southborough, Massachusetts to Boston University, where he played for Parker and Smith (an assistant) for two seasons, to the Hartford Whalers, who selected him with the No. 11 pick in the 1986 NHL Draft, to winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.

In 1,181 NHL games with the Whalers, Penguins, Quebec Nordiques/Avalanche, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars, he had 757 points (342 goals, 415 assists) before retiring in 2006.

"When I came into the League I was 20 years old and I remember I said to [Whalers defenseman] Dave Babych, 'If I can make it and play in the League for 10 years, that would be phenomenal,'" Young said. "And I ended up playing for 17. So that's something I'm definitely proud of."

Young played mostly right wing, but occasionally was shifted to defense. He said Smith was the first to move him to defense as an assistant on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team. That was the first of three times that Young played in the Olympics (1988, 1992, 2002). He won a silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics.

He'll return to the Olympics as an assistant under coach Tony Granato at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

Young first represented the U.S. at the 1985 IIHF World Junior Championship in Turku and Helsinki, Finland when he was 17. There he was teammates with former New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins defenseman Brian Leetch, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Young and Leetch also played together at the 1986 and 1987 world junior championships, 1988 and 2002 Winter Olympics, 1987 and 1989 World Championships, and the World Cup of Hockey 1996, where they played for Wilson and helped Team USA defeat Team Canada in the best-of-3 final. They also faced each other in high school when Leetch played at Avon Old Farms in Avon, Connecticut.

Leetch said what stood about Young was his speed, his size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), his shot and his versatility. 

"Wherever we needed him, he seemed to be like a Swiss Army knife," Leetch said. "And he wasn't your seventh D or your fourth-liner they were moving around. He was one of our best players whenever he was doing it. That's what I always found interesting. I've never seen a top player be moved from one valuable position to another and be just as important in each one of them.

"But with his demeanor and everything, he didn't care. He was like, 'I'll play wherever. Wherever they move me is fine.'"

Young was rarely the biggest name on any team. He remembered after being traded by the Whalers to Pittsburgh on Dec. 21, 1990, he was fourth on the Penguins depth chart at right wing behind Jaromir Jagr, Mark Recchi and Joe Mullen.

Recchi and Mullen are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Jagr (second in NHL history with 1,921 points and third with 766 goals) will likely be someday. That Penguins team also included Hockey Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy and Bryan Trottier

"I'll never forget the first few games I couldn't believe how much offense that we had on the team, how many goals we scored," Young said. "To me, it was a shock compared to what I was coming from in Hartford. We had a lot of good players in Hartford, but the puck didn't go in as many times as in Pittsburgh."

It was similar when Young won the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche on a team that included future Hockey Hall of Famers Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy. The difference for Young in that championship was he had been with the Nordiques/Avalanche for four seasons before they won.

"That was a great experience for us," Young said. "We had a lot of talent. In Quebec, we had a rough year the year before and had just moved. It was our first year in Colorado, but that was tremendous."

Young was never selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game, but was a consistent goal producer. He scored an NHL career-high 40 goals with the Blues in 2000-01, scored 30 goals with the Nordiques in 1992-93 and had six other seasons when he scored at least 20 goals.

His big shot made him a weapon on the power-play point (108 power-play goals) and because he was good defensively he was used on the penalty kill and sometimes in a checking role.

"He was a complete player in the true sense of that phrase," said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, who was teammates with Young in 1986-87 at Boston University and played against him in the NHL. "He was every bit as good away from the puck as he was when your team had the puck, and I think that's why he helped his teams win championships."

Young played important roles on U.S. teams filled with NHL stars at the World Cup of Hockey 1996 and 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. At the World Cup, Wilson used him as the defensive conscience on a line with Doug Weight and Brett Hull, and to help protect leads late in games.

At the 2002 Olympics, Young started out on the fourth line before coach Herb Brooks moved him up to a line with Bill Guerin and Jeremy Roenick after Keith Tkachuk was injured. Young scored four goals in six games in that tournament.

"We can all say that there were bigger guys on the teams we played for, but he was a contributor on a lot of different winning teams," said Guerin, who was also teammates with Young on the Stars in 2002-03 and 2003-04. "He won. He got a World Cup, and two Stanley Cups." 

Young was at the 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration when the entire 1996 World Cup team was inducted. This time, the spotlight will be on him individually. 

It will give him a chance to reflect on all the times he wore the U.S. jersey.

"I owe a lot to USA Hockey," Young said. "I learned a lot from my experiences, going through world juniors. I didn't even know what it was the first time I went. So the exposure to hockey around the world, and how good the Russians, the Swedes, the Finns, the Swedes, the Czechs, and all these countries were at the time, was a vision that USA Hockey had that ended up working. Because they exposed us as young players, players like myself and Craig Janney and Brian Leetch.

"We were in a little bit over our heads the first years, but it paid off because we started to win down the road."

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