Phil Housley was preparing lunch Monday afternoon when he looked down at his phone and saw the numbers 416 pop up and he immediately knew it was the call he had been waiting 10 years for. The 1982 first round draft choice of the Buffalo Sabres was selected along with six others for enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be November 9th up in Toronto.
Housley appeared in 1,495 games over a 23 year career and played on eight different teams. He currently sits in fourth place all-time among defenseman in scoring with 1,232 points (338 goals and 894 assists). He was known as one of the best offensive-defenseman of his era which included the likes of Paul Coffey, Ray Bourque, Al McInnis and Chris Chelios.
Housley appeared in seven All-Star games and is 2nd among US born players in scoring (Mike Modano). He was inducted into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. He coached team USA at the 2013 IIHF U20 tournament and guided them to a Gold medal championship. Currently he is an assistant coach with the
The Sabres drafted him sixth overall in 1982, straight out of high school and he spent 8 full seasons in Buffalo. Scotty Bowman dubbed him the next Bobby Orr, which was incredibly unfair at the time considering all of Orr’s accomplishments. Housley was an 18 year old kid when drafted and was not a physical player. His game was about puck movement, skating, eluding the forecheck and setting up the offense. He was deadly when quarterbacking the power play for Buffalo and then the Winnipeg Jets to whom he was traded in the summer of 1990.
In his second year he scored 31 goals which is still a record for Buffalo defenseman. He is the last Sabres defenseman to record a hat-trick (twice in 1987-88). He owns 7 different records in Sabres history.
|Most Assists in a Season||60||1989-90|
|Most Points in a Season||81||1989-90|
|Most Assists By a Rookie in a Season||47||1982-83|
|Most Goals in a Season||31||1983-84|
|Most Goals By a Defenseman (Career)||156||1982-1990|
|Most Assists By a Defenseman (Career)||334||1982-1990|
|Most Points By a Defenseman (Career)||490||1982-1990|
When I first learned the Sabres were trading Housley back in the summer of 1990 to the Winipeg Jets for Dale Hawerchuk, I didn’t want to believe it. I still remember reading about it in the Buffalo News 25 years later. It was a horrible day, I hated Buffalo for making the move and detested Hawerchuk because of it. Two seasons later I received a Phil Housley jersey for Christmas and attended the Jets vs Sabres game on January 26th(Super Bowl Sunday – Bills vs Redskins). Sabres won 5-2, Bills lost 38-14. It was the day after my 17th birthday.
Growing up on Warren Ave in Kenmore a small village just north of Buffalo we played street hockey all day, everyday. I was Housley. I could have been Wayne Gretzky or Jari Kurri, my brother was Gil Perreault, my buddy next door was Rick Middleton (Bruins fan). Those were great times and fond memories.
The first Sabres game my Father ever took me too was versus the Toronto Maple Leafs and Housley had a contingent of family and friends sitting directly in front of us. That’s how it started I guess. He was my idol growing up. When he came back to Buffalo as a Jet or a St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Calgary Flames or Washington Capitals player I made it down to Memorial Auditorium to see “Wowey” Housley. He could skate like the wind. Always dangerous with the puck and very elusive. You could not hit him, he was too quick on his skates.
I had the chance to meet Housley two seasons ago when the Predators came to town. After the game I asked then head coach Barry Trotz if Phil was still in the building. Trotz went looking for him and brought him to me. I shared the story with him of my first hockey game memory with my Father, how I had idolized him as a young boy and followed his career closely. I asked him then about his chances of making it into the HHOF. “I hope it happens one day” he said adding “I can’t worry about that though.”
His career ended up with the Leafs in the 2002-03 season.He played one regular season game and three playoff games with Toronto. I wish it could say it ended well but you could see time caught up with Housley. He made it out of the first round of the playoffs only twice. Once with Buffalo in his rookie season and again with the Capitals in 1997-98. That season they beat Buffalo in the Eastern Conference finals only to be swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals. He had a phenomenal career.
One that will be forever remembered when he takes his rightful place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.