On Wednesday, Phil Housley visited Buffalo for the first time since his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 9. The former Sabres defenseman, now an assistant coach for the Nashville Predators, took the time to reflect on his election and on his time as a Sabre.
On former Sabres coach and general manager Scotty Bowman, who drafted Housley in 1982 and is also in the Hockey Hall of Fame:
“You hear the rumors about Scotty and him just being a great coach. First time I met him was at the draft, I thought he was just a great man and he really allowed me to play the game that he wanted me to play. I think that was important.
"He didn’t put too much pressure on me, he sort of just let me play and again, the leaders of that team in my first year were excellent, made me feel really comfortable, but Scotty was great at developing me as a young man.”
On what he remembers about most about playing in Buffalo:
“In the '80s there it was a great sports town. The fans were great, they really supported, you know Jim Kelly came and played for the football team so things were looking really good in the '80s there and I really enjoyed it. The fans are really exceptional. They’re great supporters of the Sabres.
On Sabres equipment manager Rip Simonick’s story about Housley bringing his future wife, Karin, on the team bus during his first camp:
“My wife Karin was my high school sweetheart so we started dating my senior year … There was a little bit of miscommunication there. It just happened that the team bus showed up and I had Karin because it was supposed to go to the hotel.
"We walked on the bus and everybody was on the buss. As I looked down, Scotty was right there in the first row and I thought, ‘Is this bus going to the next hotel?’
“That’s when Lindy Ruff leaned over and said ‘Houer, you’re not supposed to have your girlfriend on the bus.’
"So I had to ask her to back out.
"Believe me, it was one of the most embarrassing moments. And then going up to Montreal, 'cause that was the first exhibition game, that’s where we were heading and I got to be named second star of that game. I saw Scotty at the end of the bench there as I was coming off doing the salute and I thought, ‘Here, I’m getting sent down to the minors.’
“He just said ‘Good game, kid,' so I knew it was good at that time. But, you know, it’s funny all the stories you can go back and reminisce about but that one was one of the funniest.”
He recalled, for example, playing in his first game at the Montreal Forum, standing opposite his childhood idol in the Canadiens’ Guy Lafleur. Housley entered that season as a baby-faced, 18-year-old defenseman.
He met Lafleur again later in his rookie season, this time in the playoffs. The Sabres swept the Canadiens 3-0 in the first round. Now, both players are Hall of Famers.
“There are a lot of stories. Playing against Montreal, beating them in the first round my first year 3-0 and shutting them out and losing the double-overtime against Boston the second round.
"There are a lot of great memories there. Especially being able to play with Gilbert Perreault, another Hall of Famer, who really was ahead of his time as far as making plays. You think back about all the guys when you started your life as a hockey player and you can’t thank them enough.”