BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Phil Housley never thought he’d see kids playing hockey in non-traditional American cities when he was whirling around a rink as a teenager in his home state of Minnesota. He’s certain now the game hasn’t reached its peak in his native country.
When Housley was drafted out of high school by the Buffalo Sabres in 1982 (No. 6 overall), the NHL was dominated by Canadian-born players. More than 30 years later, the game has gone global, with the United States now supplying close to 25 percent of the league’s player pool.
“I have to credit the 1980 Olympic team,” Housley said of the surge in Americans playing hockey. “That team opened the door for not only me but for many other Americans. Now, we’ve gotten first overall picks, and we have way more depth when it comes to the World Championships at the end of the year for the players that don’t make the (NHL) playoffs. That’s unlike the early 80’s, when it was like, ‘Well, who are we gonna get?'”
Housley and Rob McClanahan, a member of that 1980 USA team that upset the Soviet Union en route to an improbable gold medal, will be behind the bench when 40 of the top American prospects eligible for the 2013 NHL draft meet in the inaugural USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Saturday in Buffalo.
Now, if they can only get the lockout situation figured out. While these prospects dwelled in Buffalo on Thursday, the league announced the cancellation of the entire preseason schedule.