DEFENSIVE TRADITION by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director
Gus Young is one of four college varsity sport athletes who have played defense… in his immediate family. That's right, from one house, in Dedham, Mass., came a father and three sons who were all defenseman. Three were hockey players and one was a football/wrestler, and three attended different Ivy League schools.
Young, a Yale senior, wins the family trophy competition with two Hobey Bakers (Ivy team trophy) as well as an NCAA Championship. And he had a lot to do with those big Blue banners hanging from the ceiling of the Whale, like being named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team after earning the same honor at the NCAA West Regional.
But let's not sell the other Youngs short. The father, Kevin, was a three-sport athlete at Dartmouth, earning first-team All-Ivy honors in both football (linebacker) and wrestling. He also played lacrosse (midfielder, a defensive one) from 1975-77 as well.
The oldest brother, Seamus, was a blueliner in the class of 2006 where the Hobey Baker Trophy comes from in New Jersey before playing three seasons in the ECHL. The second oldest, Colin, played in the EJHL before skating at Salem State and Babson. Yes, another defenseman.
"There is not a lot of offensive skill in our family. If I'm going to play at next level, I'm going to have to be a defensive defenseman," said Gus, who scored a goal in the OT win over Minnesota at the 2013 West Regional semifinal.
Gus has to go outside his home to find family competition for team hardware. His uncle, Kevin's brother, Wayne, owns four Dartmouth Ivy championship rings. He was a catcher on the baseball team that went to the College World Series in 1970, and a linebacker on the 1970 football team that won the Lambert Trophy. He was a football team co-captain in 1971, earning first-team All-Ivy honors. Wayne won Ivy League titles in each of his three (1969-71) football years (1969-71) and once (1970) in baseball. He was also named the school's Alfred E. Watson Award winner as the most outstanding male athlete in 1971-72. Wayne, who calls Dartmouth football games on the radio, and Kevin are both in the school's athletics hall of fame.
The Big Green wanted Gus as well, but the youngest of the Youngs wanted to add Blue to the family's collection of Ancient Eight colors.
"It was between Dartmouth and Yale," said Gus, whose first name is actually Brendan but prefers his Swedish middle name. "My dad and uncle thought I would choose Dartmouth, but the combination of academic and athletic excellence, and the commitment to hockey here was something I didn't see anywhere else."
It wasn't an easy decision, but Gus was able to see past the Hanover legacy and find his best fit. A sit-down with Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach, may have sealed the deal.
"He said, in his time here, Yale was going to win a national championship. I really didn't get that from any other Ivy schools," said Gus, who was limited to five games games his freshman year due to injury but played every game the last two seasons. "I fell in love with his attitude toward hockey and competition and preparing me for the next level."
College hockey teams weren't the only ones taking notice of the two-time captain and All-New England skater at Noble and Greenough School. The Colorado Avalanche grabbed Young in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and have been keeping close tabs on him ever since.
"I talk to them and they have come to see me play three weekends this season already," said Young, who wears No. 2 because Seamus wore that in high school and at Princeton. "They have been awesome about everything, allowing me to focus on hockey at Yale and trying to win another championship."
The Bulldog blueliner credits his brothers the most with helping him reach his hockey potential. They acted like big brothers, coaches and were also the competition. "My brothers pushed me after each game and let me know what I did wrong. They were pretty hard on me but it helped me get where I am now. We were always outside playing sports, wiffle, basketball, hockey. I'm a very competitive person and I hated losing to my brothers. My dad is the same way."
Young also says former Yale associate head coach Red Gendron played a significant role in his collegiate progress. "Red is very good at developing defensive defensemen. He really took me under his wing and improved my game drastically while changing my style of play."
While the Young boys were always "mixing it up," Kevin was a proponent of mixing up athletic participation, so Gus fit in lacrosse (4 years in high school), football, soccer and baseball around hockey, and Yale got an all-around athlete.
"My dad and my brothers did not believe in specialization. I loved lacrosse," said the political science major in Ezra Stiles who was is relatively quiet but was voted "most talkative" Bulldog by his teammates.
Gus followed his brothers in many ways, but not when it came time to pick a secondary school. Seamus and Colin were stars at St. Sebastians in Needham. Their younger brother chose the enemy over in Dedham, N&G.
"I'm sort of the trader in the family," said Gus, the son of a former English teacher (Kevin), and an avid reader who sometimes goes through a few books a week. "They are huge rivals."
For a guy who says he doesn't have a lot of offensive skill, Young manages to find big times for points. Not only did he hit the net in the regional win over the Gophers, he scored in an OT win over Merrimack in December and at Madison Square Garden in the Rivalry on Ice this month. Fans won't forget that his move to keep the puck inside the blueline with time running out in the second period last April at Pittsburgh, resulted in the lone assist on the game-winning goal in the Frozen Four finale.
His impact for the Bulldogs has gone deeper than big moments.
"Gus brings a competitive spirit and physical presence to our team, two aspects that are critically important if you want to compete for championships," said Allain.
The coach and the student-athlete shared the foresight that turned into reality and the ultimate trophy for a true competitor in and outside of his home. "To be able to do what we did last year was quite a life achievement," said Young.
The end of last season has only whet their appetites for 2013-14.
image by Mark Ostow