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Hall induction was worth the wait for Phil Housley

by Tim Wharnsby

TORONTO -- Phil Housley was presented his Hockey Hall of Fame plaque by Pat LaFontaine, his United States teammate from the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, on Monday.

Housley's acceptance speech covered his hockey roots in South St. Paul, Minn., to his lengthy pro career to his tight-knit family.

He waited 12½ seasons since his last NHL game to gain entrance into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

At the end of his speech, he reached into a plastic bag and pulled out his round and renowned Jofa helmet.

"I know I took a lot of grief over the years for this helmet, but I thought I would bring it out one final time," Housley said, holding the relic high. "I'd like to thank Jofa. You're going into the Hall of Fame."

Here are three highlights from Housley's speech:

1. His family

Housley was emotional while talking about his late Mom, Mary Lee, and father, Leroy, who for decades ran the family business, Housley Construction.

"I'm sure they’re looking down and enjoying this," Housley said. "I'd like to thank my mom for driving me and my brother to practice on those early frosty mornings, and my dad for my work ethic.

"I love them and miss them very much."

Housley also thanked his brother, Larry, and sister, Connie, as well as his children Taylor, Reide, Wilson and Avery.

He joked his kids taught him all about hashtags, Twitter and Facebook and remarked his brother and sister "toughened him up."

He saved the last of the family portion of his speech for his "high-school sweetheart," his wife Karin. She is a Republican Member of the Minnesota Senate, published a book, runs a real estate company and has her own radio show.

"She's been the backbone of our family and has had to put up with me for 30 years," Housley said. "I know that's hard and I don't know why she does it. She's been there for me in good and bad and has as much to do about this day as anyone."

2. High school to the NHL

Before Scotty Bowman and the Buffalo Sabres drafted Housley at No. 6 out of South St. Paul High School in 1982, the teenage defenseman was offered a tryout for the United States National Team to play in the IIHF World Championship in Finland.

Housley had a two-game tryout in Germany before the tournament and made the team. The Americans didn't win a game that spring and finished last in the eight-team event, but Housley will never forget the experience.

The Soviet Union won gold, then Czechoslovakia finished second and Wayne Gretzky and Canada won bronze.

"I wanted to make that team and I'll never forget playing against the Red Army and Wayne Gretzky," Housley said. "It was this experience that was a great measuring stick heading into the draft."

Housley thanked all his coaches, teammates and trainers, but singled out Bowman for taking a chance on a "165-pound, soaking wet" defenseman, as well as Brian Sutter, his coach with the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks.

"He believed in me, and that meant a lot to me," Housley said of Sutter.

3. The importance of other sports

Housley concluded his speech by offering some advice to young hockey players around the world, encouraging them to play other sports and not focus solely on hockey.

"I grew up playing football, hockey and baseball in high school and looked forward to the change of sports and seasons," he said. "I got the chance to meet friends in different sports, enjoy different sports and I had a chance to build athleticism for the sport you love."

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