Scott Owens’ USHL coaching career started in 1986 with the Madison Capitols. He then was an assistant coach with both the University of Wisconsin and Colorado College, his alma mater, before returning to the league as the head coach of the Des Moines Buccaneers. Following four seasons in Des Moines, he was named head coach at his alma mater. He stayed with the Tigers for 14 seasons before starting his third stint a USHL bench boss, this time for the Sioux Falls Stampede, where he recently became the third USHL head coach all-time to reach 300 wins. Owens spoke about what it means to him to be the newest member of the 300-win club.
“Longevity,” he said. “Some consistency. I guess it also means I’m old. I was proud of it. I wasn’t totally aware of it, but our organization made me aware. It’s been spread out over several different decades, so I guess that’s interesting as well.”
The USHL has changed quite a bit over the four decades in which Owens has been a head coach in the league. The league has become a bigger brand, more players from the league are being drafted by NHL teams than ever, and teams are bringing in players from all over the world. Owens thinks the current state of the USHL is the best it’s ever been.
“The quality of the league has always been good, but it seems to have gotten even better in the last 5-10 years,” he said. You’re getting more and more players, both nationally and internationally, that come to the league. Before, in the 80s, it was a little bit regional in a sense, but there were still good players. I think the organization of the league is so strong and all of the organizations are much more extensive in terms of assistant coaches, scouting staffs and things along those lines.”
One of those players that Owens has brought is in 16-year old forward Jaxon Nelson. Nelson was signed to a tender by the Stampede in March 2016. The Luverne, MN native has eight points (4G, 4A) in 19 games this season. Owens said he enjoys having Nelson on the team because of his skill and how hard he works on a daily basis.
“I like his approach. Here’s a 16-year old, and he drives in the 25 minutes from Luverne, lives at home on the farm. He comes in ready to work. He’s been poised and has handled himself well. We’ve given him a nice role with our team as a youngster. He’s taken it and run with it. He goes about his business, is respectful to everybody. I just like his approach, and he’s just got tons of natural ability and strength, shoots the puck well. He’s fit in very well with our club.”
It has been an interesting coaching career for Owens, between his time in both the USHL and college hockey. There have been several different teams along the way, but he says that’s what has made his journey so interesting.
“They’ve all been interestingly different for me. Madison, in the late 80s, we catered a lot to Wisconsin kids and upper Midwest kids. Bobby Suter, it was his team, and I worked with Bobby. Then Des Moines had it going. I was on the heels of Bob Ferguson, who had won the Triple Crown in the mid-90s. I was able to get in for four years and follow up there, and we had a nice following in Des Moines with a lot of good players that came through, and then here in Sioux Falls, which is a storied franchise with a lot of years of success with the new facility and the recent winning tradition. So, from that standpoint, it’s been a wide array. Very interesting nonetheless.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.