After months of anticipation and weeks of buildup, Phil Housley flew to Toronto on Friday for that special day at last. Back in June, the South St. Paul native was in the lobby of the Marriott Buttes resort in Phoenix when he looked at his cellphone and saw “416” on the caller ID.
His heart raced. He knew it was yet another Hockey Hall of Fame induction decision day, but for more than a decade, Housley never got the call.
This time, in between moving his son into his own pad at Arizona State, Housley’s usual disappointment this day turned into elation as his wife, Karin, snapped pictures of his stunned reaction.
Karin, a Minnesota state senator, and the Housleys’ four children will be in Toronto for Monday’s induction.
“They’re going to really appreciate it,” said Housley, 51, a 21-year NHL defenseman and the second-highest scoring U.S.-born player (1,232 points) behind Mike Modano in NHL history. “I think my youngest daughter, Avery, who is a senior in high school, didn’t really know [about my career] because she was so young.
“[Now] she realizes what a great accomplishment it is. And that’s what’s really important to me, that my family is going to be there.”
A big part of Housley’s Hall of Fame speech will be his parents. His mom died 15 years ago, his father five years ago.
“I know they’re going to be looking down on me very proud,” he said. “I’m sure they’re just gleaming up there. That’s going to be a little emotional part for me when I mention my mom and dad. They had so much to do with it.”
Housley played center as a youngster, but Doug Woog at South St. Paul. High School moved him to defenseman.
“He thought I could see the game in front of me real well and I had pretty good mobility, or he just wanted to play me more,” Housley said, laughing. “It was an easy transition for me.”
It was the turning point as Housley became one of the most dynamic defenseman of his era. After Housley retired, Lou Vairo called him in 2004 to co-coach the Under-18 U.S. national development program at the Four Nations Cup in Switzerland.
“Just being behind the bench really was the closest to feeling the emotions [of playing],” Housley said.
He got the coaching bug, coached nine years at Stillwater High School, coached the 2013 U.S. team to gold at the world junior championships and now is an assistant with the Nashville Predators.
In Toronto, a large piece of Minnesota will accompany him for the ride.
“I mean, you’re the only third Minnesotan [in the Hall of Fame], which is incredible because of all the great players that have come out of here,” Housley said.
(Winger Moose Goheen inducted in 1952 and goalie Frank Brimsek in 1966 are the other two.)
“I’m very honored. Also, the community of South St. Paul, where I grew up, really meant a lot to me.
“You surround yourself with people that shape you at a young age, coaches and just the community itself, it was a blue-collar town, everyone worked hard. At one time it was the world’s largest stockyard, so you know where that blue collar comes from. Very proud people.”
Housley had a chance to go the college route, but after being drafted by the Buffalo Sabres sixth overall in 1982, Housley turned pro. He never envisioned his career could end this way.
“When you’re growing up as a kid and when you get to the NHL, you never really think that you’re playing to become a Hall of Famer,” Housley said. “You’re just in the moment, but certainly when you look back at all the hard work that went into it, and all the great people and players that you played with that put you in this position, I’m very grateful.”
NHL short takes
Luck of the Oilers
The way the Twittersphere blew up one evening last week, you would have thought the hockey world was in mourning. Edmonton Oilers wunderkind Connor McDavid crashed hard into the end wall and broke his collarbone.
The news came out the next day that he underwent surgery, and it’s much more severe than the collarbone injuries that sidelined the Wild’s Jason Zucker and Chicago’s Patrick Kane last season.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said McDavid, who would have been in the running for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, will be out “not weeks, months. Plural.”
Knowing the Oilers, this will probably put them back in the lottery conversation for Auston Matthews in a few months.
Over the past nine years, the Oilers’ average first-round draft position is first in the NHL at 4.67. The Wild, for perspective, is 15th, averaging a 15th pick every first round the past nine years. The Oilers had four No. 1 overall picks in their lineup last month against the Wild (2010, Taylor Hall; 2011, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; 2012, Nail Yakupov, and 2015, McDavid).
Brush with fame
With Hall of Fame weekend going on and former Detroit stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov being inducted, several Red Wings planned to catch up with them. Detroit played at Toronto on Friday.
“As a fan of hockey you have great appreciation for what all those people did for the game,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It’s a special thing. Hockey does it right in that it’s hard to get inducted, and those who get in, deserve it.”
WILD’S WEEK AHEAD
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. Winnipeg
Thursday: 6 p.m. at Carolina
Saturday: 7 p.m. at Dallas
All games on FSN
Players to watch: Dallas’ Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin
Entering Saturday’s games, the Stars stars were 1-2 in the league in scoring with 41 combined points, 18 of which were goals.
“It’s what I do, it’s what I’ve done.”
Wild assistant Darryl Sydor on coaching for the first time since his August drunken driving arrest.