The local sports community, and Rayside-Balfour hockey, more specifically, is mourning the loss of a long-time volunteer with the news of the passing of Jerry Young recently.
Known primarily for his work with Rayside-Balfour Minor Hockey Association dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, Young would remain quite active long after his son (Jason) had progressed to the point of enjoying a three year OHL career with the Sudbury Wolves, as well as pro hockey stops which included the Rochester Americans (AHL), Canadian National Team and a lengthy tenure in Germany, primarily as a member of the Frankfurt Lions.
Still, the world of Jerry Young seldom revolved around hockey only. "My earliest recollection is just me being dragged around in the rinks and ball fields, as a kid, not even at an age when I could play any organized sport," noted Jason.
"In the summertime, we were always at the ball fields, with him coaching fastball or Little League." While many a sporting father has ascended to the coaching ranks during the time their offspring are participating in various athletic activities, the seasons that Jerry would spend guiding his son were but a small piece of his volunteer pie.
"He was involved way before I was able to be involved as a player," said Jason. "He continued on long after I was all done. He just loved coaching and managing and being around teams." Yet, more than anything else, their strongest attachment would come through the various stages of Jason's development in the hockey ranks, travelling a road that wasn't always easy.
"To be honest with you, we had a hard time," said Jason. "In my first year pro, when I was 19 or so, that's when we started to talk more. I would bounce things off him. Before that, it was more of me trying to please him, just wanting him to be proud of me."
"Jerry wanted 100% out of everybody, but for Jason, it had to be 150%," acknowledged Michel (Jinks) Desormeaux, one of a small handful of Rayside folks who knew Jerry as well as anyone. Initially introduced through the fact that their respective wives had gone to school together, the sporting gents evolved from a friendship that would see the couples get together for cards into one that embraced the sports scene as well.
"It was 1972, I think, Jerry was coaching houseleague bantams, and I was coaching one of the other teams," recalled Desormeaux. "That's where our hockey careers sort of met." By the time the 2015-2016 season arrived, Young and Desormeaux would have spent 33 years at each other's side, between midget hockey teams, juveniles, both the Rayside-Balfour Canadians and Sabrecats, and finally the Nickel City Sons.
"Jerry was smart, he was fair," continued Desormeaux. "He would never interfere with my job as a trainer, and I would never interfere with his job. But we when we would sit, after a game, having a coffee, I always had an opinion. It wasn't always appreciated, but I always had an opinion," he added with a laugh.
Given the respect that Desormeaux had for the coaching abilities of his long-time friend, it should come as no surprise that he would seldom, if ever, push that enveloppe too far.
"He saw the game differently than everybody else. He was so good on the bench. He could see the whole ice, where you should have been and what you should have done. He could see everything that most people just couldn't. He analyzed the game at a different level than everyone else."
Small wonder that Jason would very quickly make his way to the coaching ranks once his playing days were done. "Pretty much everything I do reflects his coaching," said Jason. "I don't think I'm as old school as he was. But when he spoke, the kids would listen. I think when I speak, the kids listen."
"The thing that I've recognized even more, now that I'm coaching, is that he could reach everybody. He could get you going, he could get you motivated, he knew what buttons to push. He was hard, but he was fair."
Even in recent years, as he battled some on-going health concerns, Jerry Young stayed involved, helping out with his grandson's Nickel City Hockey Association team. As recently as the 2014-2015 season, Young was still being recognized for his organizational skills, selected as manager of the Great North Midget League all-star team that year.
"He did a lot of things that were not just for his kids, he did it for everybody," said Jason. "He was all in for everybody."