"Somehow I got stuck out there against (Lemieux)," he recalled. "And he was coming down the ice one-on-one with me. I was trying to watch his chest, but I kept seeing his arms going back and forth, moving the puck down by my feet. I was thinking, 'That puck's got to be right down there.' When I finally looked down, my feet were weaving so badly that I fell flat on my backside..."
Lucky for Houlder, Lemieux did not walk in on a breakaway and score. Houlder awkwardly fell right on the puck.
Lemieux would later apologize to the freshman. "He said, 'Sorry about that, kid.' I said, 'That's all right. I don't think you'll have to worry about seeing me out here too much more tonight.'"
Houlder's less than graceful introduction to the NHL was something he would overcome. The former North Bay Centennial's junior star would play in 846 games. He scored 59 goals and 250 points in that time.
Houlder would have a vagabond career though. He was a regular expansion player, often playing with new franchises.
After debuting with the Caps in 1987 (and scoring his first NHL goal against Buffalo's Tom Barrasso), Houlder joined the Sabres thanks to a September 30, 1990, trade for Shawn Anderson. Houlder was never a regular in Buffalo, but by 1992-93 he played 15 games with the Sabres and helped them reach the second round of the playoffs.
Houlder was claimed by the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Finally Houlder was able to join the NHL on a full time basis. He played 80 games and impressed with 39 points. He was a regular on the Ducks' power play.
The Ducks moved Houlder to the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 1994. Houlder would stick with the Blues during the lockout shortened season, registering 18 points in 41 games.
The summer of 1995 saw Houlder change addresses once again, although this time the big defenseman had some say in his new home as he signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He would enjoy two seasons with the Bolts, and helped them reach the playoffs for the first time in 1996.
The journeyman signed as a free agent with the San Jose Sharks in 1997-98. In his first season with his new team, he played all 82 games and had 32 points. In 1998-99, he recorded 32 points in 76 games.
The Lightning reacquired Houlder at the beginning of the 1999-2000 season, but lost him on waivers only 14 games into the season. The Nashville Predators picked up the veteran rearguard and was very pleased with his play and experience. He would remain on the Predators blue line until his retirement at the conclusion of the 2003 season.