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Making his way up through the Thunder Bay minor hockey system during the early 1980s, it was not long before this outstanding defenceman was exhibiting the skills that would guide him to a sixteen season career in the professional ranks. Advancing to the Ontario Hockey League in 1984, he guarded the blue line for the North Bay Centennials junior squad for three seasons racking up 157 points in 227 games, helping them claim back-to-back division titles and advance to the 1986-87 OHL finals.

Selected by the Washington Capitals in the fourth round of the 1985 NHL Draft, going 82nd overall, he made his NHL debut on December 1st, 1987. Skating in 79 NHL games with the club over 3 seasons, he also spent time in the International Hockey League with the Fort Wayne Komets and in the American Hockey League with the Baltimore Skipjacks.

Playing with the Buffalo Sabres from 1990-93, he earned 11 points in 32 regular season games and assisted on 2 goals during their trip to the second round of the 1992-93 Stanley Cup playoffs. Spending time with the Rochester Americans, he was named an AHL First Team All-Star and helped the team make it to the 1990-91 Calder Cup finals. Skating with the San Diego Gulls he recorded 72 points in 64 games earning him a spot on the IHL's first All-Star Team and the Governor's Trophy as the IHL's 1992-93 Outstanding Defenseman.

Picked up by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the 1993 NHL expansion draft, he entered the history books by assisting on the club's first ever goal and scoring their first game winner. Remaining in the NHL full-time for the next 9 seasons, he spent the shortened 1994-95 campaign with the St. Louis Blues. Joining the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1995-96 his 28 points in 61 games helped the team advance to the playoffs for the first time.

Guarding the blueline for the San Jose Sharks from 1997-99 he was a leading defensive scorer and helped the club make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Rounding out his playing career with the Nashville Predators from 1999-2003, he retired with an NHL record of 64 goals and 197 assists while playing in 846 regular season and 30 playoff games. Following his retirement he returned to North Bay where he pursued a teaching degree, coached youth sports and passed along his knowledge as an Assistant Coach with the North Bay Battalion Junior OHL team.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 28, 2019

Bill Houlder

Thunder Bay
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