Phil Housley gives back to USA Hockey

By Simon Richard

This year, roughly 1.8 million visitors will come to Lake Placid, NY, a village of barely 2,600 permanent residents. Forty-four of these visitors are the invitees of the USA Junior Evaluation Camp. They will not forget their passage through the northeast corner of the New York State where twice the Olympic Winter Games have taken place.

This group of young hockey men is surrounded by hockey specialists who include former NHL superstar and now U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Housley.

Housley is making his first official appearance in coaching for a U.S. squad as assistant coach of the 2007 National Junior Team. Having retired just three years ago from the NHL, the 1,232 NHL point-getter will begin his third season as the head coach of the Stillwater (Minn.) High School boy’s hockey team.

“Right after my retirement, I wanted to get in coaching, this is the closest you can get of the game without playing,” stated Housley in the opening day of the Evaluation Camp. “I love the game and I wanted to be involved in it. I also got the opportunity to coach my kids at the high school,” added the seven-time member of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“I was invited to come with the USA Team at the World U-18 championship in Minsk, Belarus and from this point, USA Hockey has given so much to me. I played on so many U.S. teams that being involved in USA hockey is now just something I’m very interested in.

“It is also just great to see the next generation’s kids,” he added.

A great acquisition

USA Senior Director of Hockey Operations Jim Johannson seems particularly very proud to have convinced Housley to join the junior team staff.

“It is great for the U.S. Junior Team,” spontaneously commented Johannson to Hockey’s Future in the USA Rink. “Phil is not just a very good hockey player, he communicates very well, has a great influence and a great mind. He also teaches very well.”

Patrick Kane (2007) was acquainted with Housley at the World Under-18 IIHF Championship in Halmstad, Sweden last April while the former NHLer attended the event for USAHockey.com’s audiocasts.

“It was great for us. This man put up huge numbers in the NHL,” Kane told Hockey’s Future. “He came on the ice with us, so we can ask questions to him.”

With the 2007 Junior Team, Housley is helping out mostly the defensive corps and the special teams.

“Ron Rolston is a terrific coach, he let us bring a little input in the whole philosophy of the game,” Housley said.

Changes since 1982

Housley played for the U.S. Junior Team in 1982. Asked what has changed since, he had a lot to say.

“Hockey has changed since so much, notably the coaching, the speed of the game, the strength of the kids. We never had such a camp like this. Back then, they just put the best kids of the U.S. together and let them do their best.

“I think the depth of our program has come so far now. You can see it in the NHL drafts, just by the number of U.S. kids who are being selected,” he observed proudly.

Housley believes that the U.S. National Team Development Program has a lot to do with the improvement of hockey in the USA.

“This program is extremely important, especially for the young kids. It does take a big commitment for moving to a different city, living with a different family and being so dedicated to hockey.”

Because he attended the last two IIHF U-18 championships, the veteran of six All-Star games had already seen 30 of the 46 invitees to the camp in action. He does consider it an advantage in his new function.

“It is great to have a little bit of relationship with some of the guys. I know what type of kids they are, I have an idea of their body language, I know some of their personality too. Knowing the kind of attitude a kid has is a huge factor in our decision-making.”

All for the team

Housley and his colleagues will especially look to the team concept during the evaluation camp.

“We are based on the team game. Sure, we will have highly-skilled players and we will have players who accept a certain role on the team, but for us, it is all for the team.

“If the team does well, individual recognition comes after,” concluded the new U.S. Junior Team assistant coach.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.