Do you believe in miracles? Yes, says one Minnesota high school hockey coach who wouldn't mind following in the footsteps of fellow St. Paul native Herb Brooks as head coach of USA Hockey in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
Of course, this isn't just any Minnesota high school hockey coach. It's seven-time NHL All-Star Phil Housley, who currently heads the Stillwater (Minn.) High boys hockey team about 20 miles from his hometown.
"I certainly would jump at the opportunity if called upon," Housley told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I'd take any position available."
The 48-year-old served as head coach of Team USA's under-20 squad that captured gold at the World Junior Championships in Russia earlier this month. The U.S. Olympic coach for 2014 isn't expected to be named until this summer, so Housley will concentrate on leading his prep Ponies (7-5-1) to a Minnesota state tournament berth.
After 21 NHL seasons and 1,495 games for the Buffalo Sabres, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs from 1982-2003, Housley was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. His 1,232 career points (338 goals, 894 assists) ranked first among U.S.-born players until Mike Modano eclipsed the record in 2007.
Like Brooks, Housley began his career as a high school hockey star in St. Paul, scoring 65 points in 22 games for South St. Paul High before being drafted sixth overall by the Sabres as an 18-year-old in 1982. Brooks led nearby Johnson High to the 1955 state title.
While Housley was just 16 when Brooks coached the U.S. Olympic "Miracle on Ice" team that upset Russia on its way to a gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics, perhaps the greatest moment in American sports history, he eventually played for his fellow Minnesotan on the 2002 U.S. Olympic Team that won silver in Salt Lake City.
And there may even be more similarities between Housley and the notoriously tough Brooks, who had a way with words chronicled by actor Kurt Russell in the 2004 film "Miracle." Asked by the Pioneer Press reporter if his World Juniors squad had a star player, Housley quipped, "Yes, it's called the USA team."