The routine repeated itself every summer, around the time when Phil Housley knew the Hockey Hall of Fame was about to announce its newest inductees. The South St. Paul native and 21-year NHL veteran would wait by his phone, hoping to get the news that he had been elected.
Year after year, Housley was disappointed, leading him to wonder if it was ever going to happen. That explained the flood of emotions he felt Monday, when he finally got the call to the Hall with four other players and two men elected in the builder category. The highest-scoring American-born defenseman in NHL history said he was “shocked, excited and extremely proud” to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame 12 years after his retirement, a memorable conclusion to a long wait.
Housley, 51, is the oldest of the players who will be inducted in a ceremony on Nov. 9 at the Hall of Fame in Toronto. Longtime Detroit Red Wings teammates Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov were elected in their first year of eligibility, as was defenseman Chris Pronger, who became the first player named to the Hall of Fame while still under contract. Pronger has not played since 2011 because of lingering concussion symptoms.
Four-time U.S. Olympian Angela Ruggiero became the fourth woman to be elected to the hall. Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. and former NHL player and executive Bill Hay were chosen in the builder classification.
Housley said on a Monday teleconference that he was in Arizona when he got the news, visiting his son, Wilson, who attends Arizona State.
An assistant coach with the Nashville Predators, Housley had just returned from last weekend’s NHL draft in Florida.
“We were just about to sit down for lunch, and the Hockey Hall of Fame called,” said Housley, whose 1,232 points were the most by an American-born NHL player until ex-North Star Mike Modano passed him in 2007. “I knew it was the call to be elected.
“I’ve been patiently waiting, and there have been so many great players before me that have been inducted. To finally get that call, it’s still surreal, the shock. It’s a lot of emotions that I can’t describe, but it’s something I’m very, very excited about.”
After the Buffalo Sabres made him the sixth overall pick in the 1982 NHL draft, Housley moved directly from South St. Paul High School to the NHL, beginning his pro career at age 18. He was runner-up for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 1983 and finished his initial NHL season with 19 goals and 47 assists.
Housley played in seven NHL All-Star Games during a career that also included stops in Winnipeg, St. Louis, Calgary, New Jersey, Washington, Chicago and Toronto. He retired in 2003 with 338 goals and 894 assists for his career. Housley also played for the United States in 10 international events, including six world championships, two Canada Cups and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 and coached the U.S. to a gold medal at the world junior championships in 2013.
Housley’s wife, Karin, said the family had no idea that Phil would get the call this year.
“To be honest, we are still shocked,” she added. “He’s on cloud nine, overwhelmed with phone calls and texts of [congratulations].”