Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Had a great time here'

Ex-Jet Housley remembers close-knit squad in return to city

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Phil HOUSLEY knew exactly what he wanted when he landed here Thursday -- a slice of pizza from a Winnipeg institution.

"My wife and kids drove up from Minnesota last night and we're going to Mona Lisa for lunch after the skate," Housley said Friday morning, before his Nashville Predators faced the Jets.

"It's still there, I hope. We drove by our old house last night. We built it in Tuxedo. We drove by Randy Carlyle's old house. We had a great time here. So many great memories. Our team was good, we did some good things. But most of all it was a close group. We did so much together."

Housley is now an assistant coach with the Predators running the defence and power play. He spent parts of three seasons with the Jets before being traded in 1993 to the St. Louis Blues.

In 1,495 NHL games, the St. Paul, Minn., native scored 338 goals and 894 assists for 1,232 points.

Making his first visit to Winnipeg since the day he was dealt, Housley had a smile on his face talking about the return of the NHL to this city.

"This is a great building. I was supposed to come for the opening. My wife and Zinger (Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger) were talking, but she had different plans and took me to Las Vegas for my birthday," said Housley. "It's just great to see things working out here. This is an NHL city."

Housley was as good making the first pass out of his zone as any player of his generation. One of the greatest testaments to that ability was Teemu Selanne's rookie season in the NHL. Selanne set a league record with 76 goals as a rookie and Housley played a big role, assisting on 21 of those goals and being on the ice for 51.

"Teemu's still playing and he's still producing. His legs get him where he needs to be," said Housley. "He's always been in great shape. It's fun for me to watch him. It really kind of amazes me that he's still doing it. I played for 21 years, so I appreciate it."

Housley's numbers are certainly strong enough to earn him a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but the call hasn't come yet.

"I understand the last couple of classes that have gone in have been excellent and I have no argument with any of them. But I do think about going in and would like to," said Housley. "I was an impact player for 21 years in this league. I think my play makes a good case for itself. But I don't worry about it or lose sleep."

Housley coached the U.S. entry at the world junior tournament last winter and had Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba on his team. Trouba took part in the gameday skate Friday, his first time on the ice since his ugly crash into the end boards on Oct. 18. Housley stood along the glass and watched his former player for a few minutes.

"It's great to see him on the ice. I've been following his progress and he's stepped into the league nicely. He's got a lot of assets as a player, but best of all is his competitive edge," said Housley. "When I coached him, I knew if he went into the corner the other guy was going to know it and Jacob was more often than not going to come out with the puck. That's invaluable in a player."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2013 C2

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