BUFFALO – After the Sabres fired Phil Housley on April 7, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to coach again.
Housley’s dismissal after two losing seasons hit him hard. The Sabres, a team he starred for in the 1980s, and Buffalo are close to his heart.
He desperately wanted to lead the team back to glory.
“It’s funny, because you sort of think of what you could’ve done differently,” Housley said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “You don’t know if you’re going to be back in the game, and I didn’t really know if I wanted to get back, because of what happened.”
Then Housley, whose Arizona Coyotes play the Sabres on Monday, said three teams called him around the NHL Draft in late June.
“They were all from the southern belt,” he said. “The juices started flowing again, you want to get back into it.”
The Coyotes, a team coached by Rick Tocchet, his former teammate, hired Housley on June 26. Naturally, Housley, a Hall of Fame defenseman, runs Arizona’s defense and power play.
Housley, 55, seems happy in his gig as an assistant coach, a role he enjoyed for four seasons with the Nashville Predators before the Sabres hired him.
He warmly greeted some familiar faces when he spotted them outside Arizona’s dressing room. He smiled and was upbeat during his six-minute chat today.
The Coyotes have started this season 6-4-1. The Sabres, meanwhile, have changed dramatically under new coach Ralph Krueger, morphing into the NHL’s biggest early-season surprise at 9-2-2.
Housley, of course, enjoyed some success here, leading the Sabres on a 10-game winning streak last November. But they quickly imploded, and by late in the winter they had fallen out of the playoff race.
“They’re playing very good hockey right now and it’s good to see them having success,” Housley said. “I have nothing but good things to say about Buffalo. But I’m happy to be with Arizona, coaching with Rick and John MacLean and Corey Schwab – all guys I played with. So it was an easy transition for me.”
Housley wouldn’t say much about tenure here. When asked about what he could’ve done differently or any disconnect with his players, he politely declined to answer.
“This place will always have a big piece of my heart, because I started my career here, I started my head coaching career here, so I’ve always loved the people of Buffalo,” Housley said. “They’ve been very good to me. That’s not going to change.”