"All I can
tell you," says his mother, Mary Lee Housley, from whom Phil inherits his
easygoing manner, "is I never had a milkman and the postman was
LeRoy, who works in the family plastering and stucco business, has been the
guiding if not the driving force behind his son's rise in hockey. When Phil and
older brother Larry were four and six, LeRoy would drive them to outdoor rinks
for an hour or so of skating each night. "I'd stay in the warming shack
while they skated," he says.
gradual emergence as a local hockey star, Housley never seriously considered
the well-trodden and sometimes bloody route whereby some American and many
Canadian boys leave home in their mid-teens for the tough Canadian junior
circuit, the main feeder for the NHL. Instead, he became a four-year starter
for Coach Doug Woog at South St. Paul High. "I had seen Phillip in
peewees," says Woog, who moved the youngster from center to defense,
"and I could see right away that he could move the puck through traffic.
And even then he had great composure."
Housley as a college-oriented student, "not a great natural intellect but
he wasn't afraid to take on physics and trigonometry, courses he knew were
important for college. My only mistake coaching him," says Woog, "is
that I didn't play him enough."
Seven months ago
Housley was fighting back the tears after South St. Paul was eliminated 5-3 by
Sibley High School of West St. Paul in the regional of the state tournament, a
tragedy of adolescence Housley could not avert despite his two goals, 11
third-period shots and a six-minute stretch when he alternated between defense
and center and never left the ice. The memory still hurts.
really hard to take. It was my last year and I wanted to get into the state
finals. That's a big deal in Minnesota," he says.
almost behind him, Housley was set to accept a hockey scholarship to the
University of Minnesota when he got the break that redirected his life. He was
invited to join the U.S. national team for some preliminary games leading up to
the World Championships in Finland in April—just a little spot duty until some
American pros joined the team after their clubs were eliminated in the Stanley
Cup playoffs. But Housley not only won one regular job, he won four—on defense,
at center, penalty killing and some power-play duty.
And so the secret
Bowman had harbored for two years—ever since Bowman and Sabre scout John
(Bucky) Kane first saw Housley as a high school sophomore—was now public
knowledge. Housley could play the game. No matter. Bowman was holding three
first-round picks, and with the first of them he snapped up Housley.
"I was still
planning to go to Minnesota and thinking about the 1984 Olympics," says
Housley, "but then, when I got drafted so high, it changed my whole
outlook. I mean, I saw how hard my father worked and now I had a chance to make
more money than we'd ever had."
chose Toronto agent Bill Watters as Phil's adviser. Watters has negotiated
contracts for three of the last four NHL No. 1 draft picks. "I sat down and
laid it out to the family," says Watters. "I told them Phil might do
very well if he was a big star with a successful Olympic team. But that
represented two years of amateur play and risk of a major injury. Phil would
have cherished the chance to play in the Olympics but.... I hate to say money
was the pivotal factor, but it was."