New Life for an Old Star
For Flames defenseman Phil Housley, 35, Sunday's All-Star Game was the seventh of his 18-year NHL career, yet he beamed like a teenage rookie all weekend. "When I went on the ice for practice, it hit me how incredible it was," Housley said. "I stopped to look around and take things in. Two summers ago I never thought I'd be an All-Star again."
Two summers ago Housley was coming off a career-worst 31-point season with the Capitals and was regarded by Washington's bosses—and many other league executives—as washed-up. He'd been a healthy scratch in three playoff games, and soon after the Caps were swept by the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals he was put on waivers. The talent-strapped Flames, for whom Housley had played in 1994-95 and '95-96, claimed him. "We thought he'd play out the last year of his contract in Calgary and that would be the end," says Phil's wife, Karin. "The [four] kids and I didn't even move out there at first."
Housley is a precise passer and an aggressive offensive force who at the All-Star break had scored 1,112 career points, fourth alltime among defensemen. He's also an unimposing 5'10", 185 pounds and has been derided by some observers for his lack of defensive fortitude. Buoyed by the more open style of the Western Conference and the confidence shown in him by coach Brian Sutter, Housley responded with 54 points last season and earned a new one-year contract with Calgary. This season his 37 points were tied for fourth among NHL defensemen, and he recently signed a contract extension that runs through the 2001-02 season.
The glow of Phil's resurgence has been darkened only by the failing health of his mother, Mary Lee, who's battling a brain tumor and confined to a nursing home in Minnesota. Though Phil visits her regularly, Mary Lee is often too ill to comprehend whatever news he bears. "I think she knows I'm an All-Star, but I'm not always sure," he says. "I want to play so well this season that she'd be proud of me. That's partly why I was so happy at the All-Star Game—she'd be proud of that."