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In the end it wasn't that hard a decision. While his father says, "We'd still like to see him pick away at his education, maybe in the summer" (which the youngster says he will do), Phil had no trouble saying yes to a four-year contract reportedly worth $400,000.
" Watters invests it for me and I live on a budget," Housley says. "I want to have something to start with when hockey's over." Housley's "budget" did allow him to purchase a new Z/28 Camaro, a car that brings out the boy in him: "You should see it. It's all blue and silver. I wish I had pictures." At the moment, the car is in a St. Paul repair shop—the result of Housley's being rear-ended by an unlicensed motorist while driving to the Sabres' camp in September.
For a kid plucked out of his parents' home and set down in a pro sport's fast lane, Housley seems to be doing an exceptional job of adjusting. He even claims to be rather adept in the kitchen—"Hey, I can cook Rock Cornish game hen"—a skill for which he credits his mother, sort of. "I'd come in late from a hockey game and say I wanted something to eat and she'd say, 'Get it yourself.' "
His mother and father were on hand for the Sabres' season and home opener against Quebec on Oct. 6. Housley scored his first NHL point in a losing (6-4) cause. In the second period he carried the puck out of the Buffalo zone, tore through center ice and took a heavy hit into the boards from a Nordique. While absorbing the blow, Housley was able to reach out with one hand on his stick and shovel a pass to Ric Seiling, who broke in alone and scored.
Like Orr, Housley is a left shot who plays the right side, a disadvantage in that he has to take a lot of passes on his backhand but an advantage in shooting and taking a puck off the boards. "It gives me a great angle on the net and I think it makes it easier for me to penetrate, which I like to do," he says.
Sensibly and modestly, Housley claims to be neither the Orr apparent nor the heir presumptive. "I don't want to put pressure on myself," he says. "Besides, I used to be a forward, remember? My idol growing up was [Montreal Wing] Guy Lafleur. But I saw Orr do some things I want to try. I've been working with Red [Assistant Coach Berenson] on that move where Orr faked the shot, froze the forward, then spun around and skated in on goal. I tried it in training camp and I couldn't believe how it worked. I had an open lane to the goal. It was great except that I didn't score."
"He's a kid who learns something one day and uses it the next," says Berenson. How far can Housley go? Berenson says, "I'd rather he show you than I tell you."
For Housley's part he says only that "in hockey we joke about some players being the plumbers. Well, I guess I'm one of the electricians."
That he is, as he began to prove last week in his third and fourth NHL games, in which he scored two goals and had three assists.