SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — When he saw Scott Owens on the other team’s bench, sending waves of Colorado College Tigers out onto the ice, Bob Motzko always expected a spirited battle.
“They were great transition teams, very fast in the neutral zone, always had a great power play,” said Motzko, who coached against Owens many times during the latter’s years at St. Cloud State. “The most aggressive penalty kill that you ever played against. And look at the talent Colorado College had all those years.”
Owens, 64, announced his retirement on Thursday, March 26 after more than 40 years as an assistant coach, general manager and head coach in college hockey and in juniors in the United States Hockey League. He led the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL to the league playoff title in 2019.
In 15 seasons running the program at Colorado College, his alma mater, Owens won a school-record 324 games, with seven trips to the NCAA tournament, a trio of WCHA titles and a 2005 NCAA Frozen Four appearance.
“They were there every year. They were always one of the top teams in the WCHA, and at that time, that meant you were one of the top teams in the country,” said Don Lucia, who was Owens’ predecessor at CC. “He wanted to recruit smart kids who could skate and make plays with the puck, and then he let them play. He didn’t have a rope on them.”
With Owens as his assistant coach and recruiter, Lucia had led the Tigers back to national prominence in the 1990s before taking the Minnesota Gophers job in 1999.
“He did a great job recruiting and we were able to work together for a couple years. He was a big part of the success we had,” Lucia said. “One of Scott’s strengths was he was always a great GM-type of a coach who could identify talent, put the pieces together and get the right guys. When I got to CC, I remember him saying, ‘Our walk-ons are just as important as our scholarship guys because we need to try to build the depth.’”
Owens’ success running the program at Colorado College came after years with Madison and Des Moines in the USHL. As the Tigers head coach, Owens recruited and fostered the school’s first two Hobey Baker Award winners, Peter Sejna in 2003 and Marty Sertich in 2005.
“He was very structured, but at the same time he let guys who could make plays make plays,” Sertich said. “That was a great attribute of him as a coach. He taught discipline and accountability, which is why his teams were so successful, but at the same time he knew who needed that freedom offensively. He knew who to trust, and it paid off.”
After two consecutive sub-.500 seasons with the Tigers, Owens resigned in 2014 and took the Stampede job a year later. He led Sioux Falls to the Clark Cup last season.
“He showed his mettle when Colorado College let him go, and he goes back to the USHL and within a few years he wins a championship,” Motzko said. “Terrific recruiter, great operator. History will be very, very kind to Scott. There’s a lot to celebrate about his career.”
Per the Stampede press release, they will name the team’s new coach prior to the USHL draft, which is scheduled for May 4-5.
“That’s certainly one of the top jobs in junior hockey, from the ownership group right down to the facilities and location,” Lucia said. “It’s been a great job for whoever has been there.”