The labels that people attach to the name of Scott Young inevitably mention prominently that he was the father of pop music icon Neil Young.
But Young, who died Sunday in Kingston, Ont., at the age of 87, deserved the title of icon in his own right as a journalist, author, colleague and spinner of big-league dreams for kids who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.
Young's trilogy of hockey books for boys, Scrubs on Skates, Boy on Defence and Boy at the Leafs' Camp, were food for fantasy for the youth of a hockey-loving country. They were only a part of a body of work that included 40 books of fiction and autobiography drawn from a career in which Young travelled the world covering everything from the Second World War to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and nearly every major sporting event in North America.
In his own field, he was just as big a star as the heroes he covered working for The Globe and Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Telegram and Maclean's and Sports Illustrated magazines. He loved his craft. He was skilled in the telling of stories, and lessons were more important than the vanity of embellished prose. He made a reader comfortable, involved.
"He was someone who preferred to be at home," Margaret Hogan, his wife of 25 years, said yesterday from Kingston in an interview with the Peterborough Examiner. "He went to bed early, he got up early. He wrote early in the morning. He was a writer, he was a kind, hospitable person who loved to walk in the country and follow the seasons."
Young was born April 14, 1918, in Cypress River, Man. He lived with his mother and other relatives in several Prairie towns after his parents split up when he was 13. As an adult, Young would follow a similar path.
He married three times, to Edna Blow Ragland, Astrid Carlson Mead and Hogan and had a total of seven children and step-children.
Young began his journalism career officially at age 18 as a sportswriter at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1936. He also supported the family selling short stories published in Collier's, Argosy and the American magazines.
He moved to The Canadian Press in Toronto, where he would cover both news and sports, at the age of 23 after the paper refused to give him a raise.
Young told CP in 1994 that Free Press managing editor George Ferguson told him, "You will never be worth more than $25 a week to the Winnipeg Free Press."
Young covered the Second World War for CP from London, then served in the Royal Canadian Navy 1944-45.
In 1957, Young joined The Toronto Globe and Mail as a sports columnist.
He covered Grey Cups, World Series, Stanley Cups, the Olympics and appeared on Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts.
A talented and resourceful reporter, he was seconded to cover a Royal tour and write a general column, leaving an opening on the sports page that would be filled by Dick Beddoes. He jumped to the Telegram in the 1960s, then made his way back to The Globe in the 1970s.
Young said in his memoir A Writer's Life that his hockey books for boys "were based on hockey as I had known it in Winnipeg high schools and junior teams."
Hockey, as Young knew it, was the brand espoused by Toronto Maple Leafs founder Conn Smythe and Stanley-Cup-winning coach George (Punch) Imlach, for whom he would also author books.
He gave up newspapers in 1980, dismayed by what he saw as a twist in the journalistic profession, away from reporting facts and quoting real contacts to scandal hunting via "unnamed sources."
His novels and non-fiction work included The Flood, the two Arctic thrillers Murder in a Cold Climate and The Shaman's Knife, and 1984's Neil and Me, about his relationship with his famous rock 'n' roll son.
Hogan said her husband hadn't written for several years.
Peterborough Mayor Sylvia Sutherland said Young's death left a void in the landscape of Canadian journalism.
"He was one of the outstanding journalists of his time," she said. "He had an incisive intelligence. He knew how to get a good story. I love Scott. I miss him a lot, everybody will. He's one of the great legends of Canadian journalism and it's a loss to those of us who love journalism."
Sutherland said she first met Young in the mid-1960s, when she worked at the Toronto Telegram. "We became close friends in the '70s when we all moved to Peterborough," she said.
Hogan said she and her husband moved to Kingston last October to be closer to her family. But they kept the family farm in Cavan.
"We still use and love the farm," Hogan said.
"In the late '60s he was looking for property. He settled on this property in the Cavan hills."
The couple were there only two weeks ago, the last time Sutherland saw her friend.
"Right until the end he was a very graceful and gracious man," she said. "He had been ill for a number of years, but he was still the same sweet Scott. He loved to talk about the old days in journalism and it was fun to do that with him."