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Former Ace Young dies in car accident

TRAGIC: Foward was one of seven Alaskans to play in the NHL – (Courtesy Doyle Woody, Anchorage Daily News)
rFormer Alaska Aces center B.J. Young of Anchorage (pictured accepting First-Team All-Star plaque from former WHL commissioner Ed Chynoweth in 1997), one of just seven Alaskans to play in the NHL, died in a single-car accident early Wednesday morning in Vancouver, British Columbia, according to a family spokesman.
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rYoung, 28, died at the scene from injuries he suffered when the vehicle he was driving left the road and crashed shortly after midnight, said Jerry Mackie, an Aces owner speaking for Young’s family.
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rThe Vancouver Police Department would not release the name of the deceased. But a department spokesman, Constable Howard Chow, confirmed a 28-year-old man died at the scene after the 2005 Nissan he was driving around a bend veered off the road, struck a tree and then struck a light pole.
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rChow said a female passenger in the vehicle was treated at the scene for minor injuries. Vancouver police are investigating whether speed or alcohol was a factor in the accident, Chow said.
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rYoung’s death came almost precisely six years after he made his lone appearance in the NHL, dressing in a locker room stall next to his idol, Steve Yzerman, and playing two shifts for the Detroit Red Wings.
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rYoung played parts of three seasons for the Aces and served as their captain in the 2002-03 season.
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r”He was a colorful person,” Mackie said. “I personally will miss him.”
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rYoung was not playing professional hockey this season, and Mackie said he was living in the Vancouver area. Mackie said Young is survived by his wife, Danielle, and son, Tyson.
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rLast season, Young helped the Aces of the ECHL, a minor league two rungs below the NHL on the professional hockey ladder, advance to the league’s playoff semifinals. That Aces lineup included several skaters from Anchorage — Young, Mike Lee, Chris Heisten, Louis Mass and Scott Gomez, who played for Alaska during the NHL lockout. That group developed its skills here in the late 1980s and early- to mid-90s.
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r”What we had here was special, all the boys together and feeling like we could win a championship,” said Lee, 25, a close friend of Young’s. “It was like being on top of the world. I’m glad I got to play with him at this level.
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r”He’ll definitely be missed.”
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rGomez, the 25-year-old New Jersey Devils center, said he grew up in awe of Young and cherished their time together last season.
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r”We were proud of him, he was back to the old B.J.,” Gomez said. “It’s a terrible thing, losing him. My heart goes out to Danielle, and the young one, and to B.J.’s family.
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r”The Anchorage hockey community is so close. This one is going to sting for a while.”
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rYoung, whose game was equal parts flamboyance and feistiness, returned to professional hockey last season after taking a year off to attend to personal and family matters. The previous season he was dismissed from the
rAces by then-coach Perry Florio for reasons never made public.
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rYoung was admittedly badly out of shape for the 2004 training camp, but one day he caught the attention of Aces coach Davis Payne by gutting his way through a particularly brutal conditioning skate.
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r”He had every reason to walk away, but he would not quit,” Payne said. “That left quite an impression on me.”
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rLater in the season, when Young had rounded himself into fitness, he cracked the lineup. He scored 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points in 48 regular season games. He had one goal and seven assists in the playoffs.
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rYet Young wasn’t merely a finesse player in his seven seasons as a pro, which included four seasons in the American Hockey League and International Hockey League, one step below the NHL. In six of those seasons, he racked up
rat least 147 penalty minutes.
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r”He was willing to play hard, fight for you, stick his nose in and get it dirty,” Payne said. “Despite his faults, there was a good, genuine person underneath there.
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r”He laid it all out there, on the ice and in his life, I guess.”
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rYoung’s confidence in his ability, even late in his career, was displayed last January at Sullivan Arena. He scored a jaw-dropping, game-winning shootout goal that became a staple of the Aces’ highlight reel.
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rRather than follow the usual script of skating in on the goaltender and shooting, Young pulled off a daring move players usually attempt only in practice. He faked a forehand shot, banked the puck off his right skate and
rslipped a shot behind the sprawling goalie.
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r”Everyone on the bench looked at each other like, ‘No way!” Lee recalled.
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r”It takes guts,” Payne said. “The thing about it is, it’s hard to score in a shootout anyway. But to go ahead and pull off a skill move at the upper end of the degree-of-difficulty scale, that’s one thing; to do it with the
rgame on the line, if you don’t pull it off, you’ll look even more foolish than you’ll look great if you score on it.”
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rAs a youth, Young forged a reputation as a gifted scorer. At 15, while playing for the Anchorage North Stars competition team, he was the leading scorer at the prestigious Mac’s midget tournament in Calgary, Alberta.
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rAt 16, he left home to play in the Western Hockey League, a Canadian-based major junior league that serves as a development pipeline to the NHL.
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rSkating for the Red Deer Rebels in 1996-97, Young led the league in goals (58), was voted an all-star and acquired a catchy nickname — “The Red Deer Rifle.”
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rYoung also skated for Team USA in the World Junior Championship.
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rThe Red Wings drafted Young in the sixth round in 1997. The timing was tough. The Red Wings were stocked with terrific veteran forwards — “They ran the hockey world then,” Lee said — and presented perhaps the most difficult NHL lineup for a young forward to crack.
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rLee said Young’s occasionally tumultuous life off the ice was not the measure of the man.
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r”Everyone messes up, but he was such a good spirit,” Lee said. “I laughed with him, I cried with him. And he was just such a talented player. We were lucky to see him play.”
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rThe Aces observed a moment of silence in Young’s honor before their game Wednesday night at Sullivan Arena.
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r”We love you, B.J.,” shouted one fan.
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r”We miss you, B.J.,” added another.
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r————————–
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rBJ played in the WHL from 1993 to 1997 with the Tri-City Americans and the
rRed Deer Rebels. He recorded 137 goals and 274 points in 235 WHL regular
rseason games. He was originally listed by the Regina Pats in March of 1993
rand in April of 1993 was traded to the Tri-City Americans.
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rHis best seaon in the WHL was in 1996-97 when he recorded 58 goals and 114
rpoints finishing 5th in League scoring. He was named a 1st Team Eastern
rConference All-Star in 1996-97.
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rHe led the Rebels in Scoring in 1995-96 and 1996-97 with 94 and 114 points
rrespectively.
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rYoung was selected by Detroit Red Wings in the 6th Round, 157th overall 1997
rNHL Entry Draft.
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rHe was 28 years old.
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rSeason Team GP G A Pts PIM
r1993-94 Tri-City Americans WHL 54 19 24 43 66
r1994-95 Tri-City Americans WHL 30 6 3 9 39
r1994-95 Red Deer Rebels WHL 21 5 9 14 33
r1995-96 Red Deer Rebels WHL 67 49 45 94 144
r1996-97 Red Deer Rebels WHL 63 58 56 114 97
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r Totals 235 137 137 274 379
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