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Over their 45-year history, the Capitals have seen a number of notable defensemen don their sweater, with names such as Rod Langway, Al Iafrate, Calle Johansson, Sergei Gonchar, Mike Green, and John Carlson among the many who have made an impact in a Capitals logo. In this latest Alumni Profile, NoVa Caps takes a look back on the Capitals career of another of those blueliners, Phil Housley. (You can check out all of our previous Alumni profiles here.)
Signed by the Capitals to a three-year, approximately $5 million deal (per The Washington Post at the time) in free agency on July 22, 1996, Housley was signed by then-General Manager David Poile to bolster the Caps’ blueline. At the time, Housley was already an accomplished player, ranking as the NHL’s fourth all-time leading goal-scorer among defensemen. A former first-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 1982, Housley played in 77 games in his first season (1996-97), scoring 11 goals and recording 29 assists for 40 points, with a minus-10 rating; Housley ranked fourth in scoring among all Capitals skaters and led all defensemen in scoring.
In his second season, Housley played in 64 games, scoring six goal and adding 25 assists for 31 points, and an identical minus-10 rating to the previous season. Despite his decreased production, Housley (then 33), finished sixth in scoring on the team and second among defenseman by only five points. In the Caps’ run to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final, Housley recorded an additional four assists in 18 games played. During the summer of 1998, the Capitals placed Housley on waivers, where he was claimed by the Calgary Flames (with whom he had spent time with before) on July 21, 1998, just one day shy of two years to the day he had signed with the Caps. Housley ended his Capitals career having played 141 games, scoring 17 goals and adding 54 assists with a minus-20 rating.
Housley played an additional 364 games with Calgary, Chicago, and Toronto before retiring on January 16, 2004. At the time of his retirement, Housley held the record for most games played by an American-born player (later broken by Chris Chelios in 2006) with 1,495, and is the third-highest scoring American-born player after only Brett Hull (1,391) and Mike Modano (1,374), with 1,232 points. At the time of his retirement, he had played the most games of any player who had not won a Stanley Cup, a record he held until Shane Doan retired in 2017. Housley was inducted in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.
Following his career as a player, Housley entered coaching, spending time with Stillwater Area High School in Stillwater, Minnesota, as an Assistant Coach with the Nashville Predators from 2013-17, and as the Sabres’ Head Coach from 2017 to his firing after the 2018-19 season. He was hired as an assistant coach with the Arizona coyotes in June 2019.
By Michael Fleetwood
For more Capitals Alumni Profiles, click HERE