Remembering Red Wing Bad Boy Howie Young

Howie Young Detroit Red Wings

Howie Young appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in January of 1963.

Of all the characters who donned the Winged Wheel, one of the toughest and wildest was Howie Young, an impressive defenseman with a Hollywood face whose penchant for fighting and penalty minutes was nearly equal to his love for drinking.

The Toronto native was a promising young defenseman and a fearsome body checker when he broke into the Red Wing lineup at age 23 during the 1960-61 season. Despite only playing in 29 of the team’s 70 games, Young lead the Wings with 108 penalty minutes and fought (and drank) with anyone. In the playoffs he appeared in all eleven games and scored twice as the Wings fell to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals.

After splitting time between the NHL and the minors in the ’61-’62 campaign, in Young’s first full season of 1962-63 Young broke the NHL record for penalty minutes with 273 eclipsing Lou Fontinato’s old record of 202.

Young became so famous in the NHL for his fighting and play that he became a cover boy on the January 28th 1963 issue of Sports Illustrated. Years later Young admitted to Sports Illustrated that he was suffering from a major hangover when that photo was taken.

“On the bench I would say, ‘Please God, just get me through this game.’ Then it was ‘Hey God just get me through this period.’ Then it was God just get me through this shift'”.

However due to his continuous drinking and undisciplined behavior both on and off the ice, Red Wing management traded the popular player to Chicago in the summer of 1963.

Both of Young’s parents had been alcoholics so he was raised by his grandmother who died before he was 16 leaving him on his own. The youngster turned to alcohol and drank every day for the next 12 years. After being arrested for breaking into his own apartment in 1965 at age 28, he vowed in his jail cell that he would never drink again. He began going to AA meetings and kept his promise until the day he died.

After a one year stint with Chicago, Young played parts of four seasons with the Los Angels Blades in the Western Hockey League.

In California he met Frank Sinatra who liked him, was impressed with his looks and used him in his 1965 film None But the Brave where he said one line, “Damn Mosquitoes” as he swatted an insect. (Years later Young would play an outlaw in the tv mini-series Lonesome Dove. )

After sobering up, Young made it back into the NHL with Detroit where he played part of the 1966-67 season and all of 1967-68 before heading back to Chicago and winding up his NHL career in 1971 with Vancouver. Young would later play a few years in the WHA and the minors and even played four games for the Flint Spirits of the IHL in 1985-86 at age 49.

Out of hockey he worked as a Brinks guard in L.A., washed dishes, dug ditches and drove buses and trucks before he and his third wife found peace in New Mexico where Sports Illustrated once again caught up with Young in 1998. At the time he lived with his wife China on a two acre ranch with nine cats, two geese, and a quarter horse named Big Red. He was a mild mannered bus driver for the McKinley County public schools and had been drumming up funds to build a ice rink for the Navajo community.

Sadly, he died a year later of pancreatic cancer at age 62.

If you were lucky enough to be at Olympia Stadium in the early 1960’s to see Young knock opponents into the boards and swing his fists to a standing ovation, you would never forget him.

6 replies on “Remembering Red Wing Bad Boy Howie Young

  • LuAnne Grant

    This is a great article. I first met Howie in Chicago in 1963, the turbulent drinking days. I would rescue him numerous times from Butch McGuire`s, Cat Fish Row — feed him, acting as nursemaid. After movie None But the Brave, he and Raellyn stayed at my childhood home in Rochester, Indiana. They were there for about a week. This was a town of 4,000. It was never the same. Everyone knew Howie!!!! I moved to Phoenix 1967. Ran into Raellyn at Park Central (shopping center) around 1969. Howie was playing with Roadrunners. And both had quit drinking sometime ago. I had not yet. Saw Howie a couple of times and then not again til 1977. I had moved to Vail 1972-1977. I gave him a call at Roadrunners where we made contact again. He and Raellyn had split up. He kept on me to quit drinking; I didn`t want to. Went separate ways. I did quit in 1984. I thought about him so often; tried different times to find him, but unsuccessful. No computer til 2007 for me. I just found out he died around New Years. I had just gotten back on Facebook and I found him, so elated, not realizing, at first, that he had died. It has really hit me hard. I did find Raellyn and talked to her on phone, after all these years. What an impact he made upon my life. He was one of a kind. He is in my heart and soul. So sorry I didn`t try harder to find him, but the timing……. I am going to Phx late March. Maybe I will take a trip to Thoreau. Does China still live there?

  • Kelly Chickadaunce

    Never got the chance to meet Howie he was my grandfathers brother. But I did get to hear a lot of good stories about him through my mother and grandmother. They say he was a great guy.

    • Dan Sweet

      Hello. My name is Dan Sweet. Howie Young and his Brother Doug Chickadance hung out at my Grand Father’s bar on Grand River Avenue in N.W.Detroit in the 1960’s. The Great Lakes Cocktail Lounge. Doug abandoned his family and shacked up with my Grandmother after my Grandfather died under questionable circumstances. Doug and my Grandmother lived off the insurance proceeds after the Great Lakes Cocktail Lounge was touched. Our family suspected Doug touched the Bar? Doug was always drunk. whiskey was his preference.

      Doug became violent many times and beat up my Grandmother many times. She was pistal whipped, punched, and verbally abused. My Father kicked Doug out of our home in Royal Oak, Michigan after he was disrespectful to my Father and our home. Doug did not work until he and my Grandmother moved to Stuart Florida.

      Doug and my Grandmother moved from Michigan to Florida because Doug owed $15,000 in back child support.. Florida and Michigan at the time had no agreement to track down non compliance in child support issues. Doug eventually paid up.
      However, Doug’s son committed suicide at 29 year’s old and his daughter moved to Scotland.
      I disowned my Grandmother after learning the facts about her cheeting on my Grandfather who we all Loved so much!! I believe to this day Doug Chickadance contributed to my Grandfather’s Death.

    • Kory Crysler

      Hello David, my name is Kory Crysler. I grew up in Detroit and my first girlfriend at about 8 or 9 years old was Lori Young. Lori lived across the park from me on Rockdale street in Brightmoor Detroit. Where Lori and her younger sister and I think there was a baby brother also. Howie Young, who was never around at the time was their father. If you know Lori Young David please give her my info and ask her to send me a text. I remember the day Lori and her family moved away it was one of the loneliest days in my childhood life. I sat at the curb and watched as they drove away. My cell phone is 2488803198 give it to Lori and ask her to text me please.

Comments are closed.