Housley happy to be back where his career began

June 16, 2017 - 11:19 am

Phil Housley was announced as the 18th head coach in the history of the Buffalo Sabres franchise on Thursday. Nearly 35 years ago, Housley began his NHL career with the Sabres after being drafted sixth overall in the 1982 NHL Draft out of high school. In eight seasons with the Sabres, Housley scored 108 goals and registered 558 points in 608 games. Housley ended up producing 1,232 points in 1,495 games with eight different teams, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

Housley has spent the past four years with the Nashville Predators as an assistant coach under both Barry Trotz and Peter Laviolette. In his time with the Predators, he established one of the top-defensive groups in the NHL, which helped them get to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.

Now, Housley is set to take his first head coaching job in professional hockey with the team that got his career jump-started as a teenager.

“It means everything," Housley said with Howard Simon and Paul Hamilton on Friday on WGR. "I started my career here. I get very emotional when I think about it, to be the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres as my first opportunity. I got to thank Terry and Kim for having the confidence in me; and Jason for taking a chance on me and having confidence in me to do the job. I’m excited.”

Housley was just part of a Predators team that had reached the Stanley Cup Final, and experienced a huge rush of passion and motivation from the fans of Nashville. He remembers his days back in the 1980s playing in Buffalo at the Aud, and hopes that he can bring some of that energy back to Buffalo.

“What I went through in Nashville and seeing how the city and the community and the surrounding areas really embraced the run there, think we’re going to build something special here," said Housley. "The people here are very passionate. They’re very proud people and care a lot about their sports teams. So we got to try and earn that loyalty back and I’m going to work hard to try and do that.”

Following his career in the NHL, Housley took a job coaching a struggling high school team in Minnesota and was tasked with turning the program around. That's exactly what he did, and helped his program become one of the top high school programs in the state. With his success, Housley went on to coach teams with the USA Hockey program in international competition. He won a gold medal coaching the United States in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Russia, along with Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe.

Along with his coaching experience with the Predators, Housley hopes to establish himself with the Sabres just as he has for the past several years around the hockey world.

“I’ve built things, I’ve been through that path of building a culture and it started in Stillwater," Housley said. "I was fortunate to play 21 years and just to take a high school head coaching job, which I took a lot of pride in and had to change that culture and knock some walls down. And build a community and a team there, giving it expectations.”

“(With Team USA, we) had to build that team with kids from all over the United States. Build a culture, bring them together because it was about team first and we had a lot of talented players. But they all thought alike, it was about the team and we went on to win the world championship. With the assistant coaching in the last four years, learned a lot from Barry Trotz, a terrific coach. Learned an incredible amount from Peter Laviolette, a veteran coach whose won a Stanley Cup. I’m going to try and use all those experiences but that’s really what’s shaped me as a coach today.”

Housley also expressed, as he did on Thursday, that he wants his team to be able play with an attacking mindset, but play responsibly and not take any unnecessary risks. Housley also mentioned that he wants his team to have a good work ethic in order to be prepared for games day in and day out. He's hoping to instill his style of work ethic that he played with and coaches with, with the hope that it brings success back to the Sabres.

“I have a really strong work ethic and my dad taught me that back when he was a plaster," Housley said. "I worked one summer with him and I said 'this isn’t for me,' because it was hard work. But he set the boundaries for me early in my life as a kid and then growing up. I’m going to try and use that work ethic and bring that to the Buffalo Sabres.”

You can listen to Housley's entire interview with Howard and Paul below:

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