|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (August 2013)|
August 2, 1937|
Scarborough, ON, CAN
|Died||November 24, 1999(aged 62)|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (183 cm)|
|Weight||190 lb (86 kg; 13 st 8 lb)|
|Played for||Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Black Hawks
Howard John Edward "Wild Thing" Young (August 2, 1937 – November 24, 1999) was a Canadian professional ice hockey player and actor, best known for his time in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1960s. He was born in Scarborough, Ontario.
Early years in Detroit
Young would break into the Red Wings lineup in the 1960–61 season, quickly earning a reputation as one of the toughest, most promising, and most troubled young defenders in the sport. He was blessed with a high level of natural skill and was one of the most fearsome bodycheckers in the game, but was tremendously undisciplined both on an off the ice, and a constant headache to the Detroit organization. He recorded 8 assists in his rookie season, and managed to lead the Wings with 108 penalty minutes despite playing in only 29 of the team's 70 games. In the playoffs, he would excel, appearing in all 11 games and scoring two goals in helping the Red Wings reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
He would split another season between the NHL and the minors before establishing himself as a regular in 1962–63. In his first full NHL season, he would record 9 points in 62 games and demolish the league record for penalty minutes, recording 273 to eclipse Lou Fontinato's old record of 202. His pugilistic exploits would earn him a place on the cover of Sports Illustrated in January 1963.
However, his drinking had by this point reached full-blown alcoholism, and despite his popularity in Detroit the team shipped him to the Chicago Black Hawks in the summer of 1963.
Exile to Los Angeles
Young's problems would follow him to Chicago, and their patience would run out even quicker than Detroit's did. Mid-way through the 1963–64 season, the team sold him to the Western Hockey League Los Angeles Blades.
In Los Angeles, he would be one of the Western League's most feared defenders, leading the league in penalty minutes in both his full seasons there while contributing offensively from the blueline. Handsome and charismatic, he would also foray into acting, with a minor role in the 1965 Frank Sinatra film None But The Brave.
In 1965, Young's life bottomed out, and he entered Alcoholics Anonymous. After sobering up, his play on the ice showed a marked improvement, and he finally began to harness his immense potential. He also managed to greatly improve his discipline on the ice and focus more on the game and less on fisticuffs.
Return to the NHL
Young started the 1966–67 season dominating the WHL, with 22 points in his first 29 games. More impressively, the once-volatile defender spent just 43 minutes in the penalty box. Impressed with his sobriety and improved play, the Red Wings sent three players to Los Angeles to reacquire him.
Back in the NHL for the first time in three years, Young played the best hockey of his career. In 44 games for the Red Wings, he recorded 3 goals and 14 assists for 17 points along with 100 penalty minutes. In 1967–68, he would spend another full season in Detroit, setting career highs with 17 assists and 19 points.
Dealt back to Chicago for the 1968–69 campaign, Young began to show his age. Now 32, he slumped to just 10 points in 57 games and seemed to have lost his physical edge. He would spend most of the following two seasons in the minors, with the exception of an 11-game stint with the expansion Vancouver Canucks in 1970–71, before retiring.
Comeback, WHA years and retirement
After a year away from the sport, Young would make a comeback in 1972, signing on with the WHL Phoenix Roadrunners. Despite being 35 and having played defence for most of his career, he returned as a forward, and was surprisingly successful. In 1972–73, he scored 20 goals and 38 assists for 58 points for the Roadrunners. In 1973–74, he was better yet, scoring 37 goals (6th in the league) and 68 points, and was named a WHL First-Team All-Star.
For the 1974–75 season, Phoenix was granted admission to the World Hockey Association, and Young stayed with the Roadrunners through the move. Now 37 and playing top-level pro hockey for the first time in 5 years, he continued to play well, recording 15 points in 30 games before being sold mid-season to the Winnipeg Jets. In Winnipeg he was reunited with his former Chicago teammate Bobby Hull, and delivered 13 goals in 42 games. He finished the year with solid totals of 16 goals and 22 assists for 38 points in 72 games.
Young would retire again in 1975, but return to Phoenix late in the 1976–77 season after a nearly two-year layoff. Nearly 40, he scored just 1 goal and 4 points in 26 games. He would play low-level minor pro for another two seasons in Phoenix and Los Angeles before retiring again in 1979. He would make another comeback in 1985-86, picking up an assist in 4 games for the Flint Spirits of the IHL, an impressive feat at the age of nearly 50 in a league just a notch below the NHL.
Following his retirement, he would eventually move to New Mexico where he owned a ranch and served as a school bus driver. He also made other appearances as an actor. In 1989 he played an outlaw on the television mini-series Lonesome Dove, in 1990 he portrayed "Poe Possey" in the movie Young Guns II and he appeared in the 1997 television film Last Stand at Saber River starring Tom Selleck. He died on November 24, 1999 at the age of 62.
Young appeared in 336 games over 8 seasons in the NHL, recording 12 goals and 62 assists for 74 points along with 851 penalty minutes. In 98 WHA appearances, he scored 17 goals and 25 assists for 42 points, along with 109 penalty minutes.
- Laurie Lyon (November 29, 1999). "Lives Lived: Howard John Edward Young". The Globe and Mail.
- Howard Young at the Internet Movie Database
- John Howard Young at the Internet Movie Database
- Howie Young's profile at hockeydb.com
- Howie Young at Detroit Red Wings
- Legends of Hockey profile