Living the Dream: Valley Maple Leafs captain 'heart and soul' of squad

Tyler Young a leader both on and off the ice

Published on January 24, 2017

Twenty-one-year-old Tyler Young has been lacing up his skates with the Valley Maple Leafs since the end of the 2013-2014 season.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

WINDSOR, N.S. — As a hockey player growing up in a small community in Ontario, Tyler Young used to watch Junior B games and ponder what it would be like to reach that level.

Flash forward a few years and he doesn’t need to wonder anymore. He found out first hand. Young is now the captain of the Valley Maple Leafs — a Junior B squad that took home the Maritime championships last season.

“In my hometown, we have a Junior B team there and I remember my dad always taking me to games there. I wanted to do this some day,” said Young.

That chance came during the 2013-2014 season.

In 2013, Young moved to Nova Scotia to attend Acadia University in Wolfville. But before signing up to further his education, he scoped out the local hockey scene to see if there were options available. He started out with the Junior C River Rats in 2013, and by the time playoffs rolled around, he was called on to play a couple games with the Leafs.

“It was sort of funny how it all worked out,” said Young.

“We were in the playoffs with the River Rats against Barrington. We ended up losing that but I finished the season with these guys and I've been with them ever since,” said Young.

“It's a good group of guys, good organization; I enjoy it.”

Tyler Young is a versatile player, ready to slide into whatever position is necessary to help the Valley Maple Leafs.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

Tyler Young is a quiet leader that encourages others to put in extra effort when on the ice.
Carole Morris-Underhill

Solid work ethic

Young, who grew up in Fonthill, Ontario, estimates he started playing hockey when he was two or three years old.

“I have an older sister, so when she started playing, my dad just threw me out with her,” he said. “It was a sport I always loved.”

His parents, Jason and Laurie Young, weren't hockey players, preferring basketball and soccer, while his siblings, Jill and Thomas, both took on hockey.

“When I was playing with my sister, there were some fun times there with us playing together on the same team, same line,” Young recalled.

Now 21, the six-foot tall athlete worked hard to improve his skill set as he progressed through his minor hockey and high school hockey years. He says the highlight of those years was when his bantam team won the Ontario Minor Hockey Association's championship title in 2010.

His determination to continually improve upon his game is something that caught the eyes of both Valley Maple Leafs assistant coach Brett Fletcher and head coach Josh Dill.

“It's his work ethic. He never lets up. He goes so hard. He plays his position well. He picks up when guys aren't in their position. He knows where to go,” said Dill. “He's an all-rounded hockey player.”

Young is leading the team in points this season. Of 25 games played, he's scored 20 goals and assisted on 22 others for a total of 42 points.

During the 17 playoff games in 2015-2016, Young accumulated 25 points — registering 12 goals and 13 assists.

“I enjoy scoring, I always have. Not goals, but points. I like being part of plays, being part of the team,” said Young.

Fletcher said one of the main reasons he's racking up the points this season is because of his 'never give up' attitude.

“You can see his determination and his grit. When he plays in the games, he gets points, he gets assists, he sticks up for his teammates and he gets the job done every night,” said Fletcher.

“He doesn't take a night off. He's absolutely the heart and soul.”

The Valley Maple Leafs captain, Tyler Young, is a play-maker for the team and leads by example. He loves to be in front of the net, whether it's scoring or assisting his teammates.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

On being a leader

Young feels privileged to lead the Valley Maple Leafs this season and it's a post he takes seriously.

“It's an honour. I'm pleased that the coaches, the organization and the rest of the guys feel that they trust me and believe in my leadership skills,” said Young.

Last year, when the Leafs went on a hot streak that led the club to earn its first Don Johnson Memorial Cup, Young was an assistant captain.

Winning the cup, which is awarded to the best Junior B hockey team in the Maritimes, is Young's fondest hockey moment to date.

“It was pretty surreal how everything unfolded,” said Young, noting the tournament was held in the hometown of fellow Valley Maple Leafs assistant captain Mitchell Normore.

His father, Jason Young, and his grandfather, Robert Young, also attended some of the round robin games while the Leafs played in the tournament in Newfoundland last year.

“Every time I go home, they ask me how hockey is going and they always remind me about last year,” said Young, who hopes the team will be able to defend their title this year.

Both Fletcher and Dill said Young leads his team by example.

“The younger guys are looking up to him. He plays hard every single night,” said Fletcher.

“Whether he's not feeling well or he's hurt, he plays like he's 110 per cent every night. He gives it his all.”

Fletcher said Young has the ability to slide in and play wherever he is required — from offense and defense to special teams, including power play and penalty kill.

“I just like being part of the play, essentially. I'm more than willing to stand in front of the net and take crosschecks to the back just for someone to shoot the puck through,” said Young.

The Leafs' general manager David Hunter has also been impressed with how Young has matured into his role as a leader.

“Young has just elevated his game. He's a true leader out there. He's MVP of the league – no doubt. He's carried us when we got down,” said Hunter.

Of 25 games played this season, Tyler Young has scored 20 goals and assisted on 22 others.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

Looking towards the future

Young is currently attending Dalhousie University to complete the remainder of an engineering degree after spending two years at Acadia.

“When I get on the ice, I just want to think hockey. That's one of the reasons I try to do it; it puts my mind to rest from school and whatnot,” said Young.

And while he says hockey as an escape from schooling pressures, he admits it can be hard to focus on the game when there are midterms and finals looming.

“It's a mental game so if you're not completely focused, you're going to possibly do something wrong or put your team in jeopardy,” he said, adding that's one area he's trying to improve upon.

Even though this is the last year Young will be eligible to play Junior B hockey due to the age restrictions, Dill said he sees a promising future ahead for Young.

“He's taking engineering, so he's full-time in school and he doesn't miss a practice. I think in life he'll succeed, not only in hockey but in life in general,” said Dill.