“There are guys ahead of me who are nowhere near me.”
Josh Ho-Sang’s comments in a Toronto Sun article just before the 2014 NHL draft were, for many hockey fans, their first insight into the mind of the young man who had just finished a huge season with the a Windsor Spitfires club that was swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Ho-Sang led Windsor in all offensive categories in the regular season, playing with linemates that were, frankly, below average. Of all OHL players born in ’96, Ho-Sang was fourth in scoring. Windsor also traded their Captain, and Ho-Sang’s most productive linemate Kerby Rychel midway through the season to Guelph.
When reading through the lines, Ho-Sang’s draft season is real impressive. Still, Ho-Sang nearly fell out of the first round of the 2014 draft because of perceived “attitude issues” that still prompt tweets like this from analysts.
Josh HO SANG tried really hard today…. For 1 shift.
— Matthew Barnaby (@MattBarnaby3636) March 22, 2015
The irony of this comment being made as Erie’s Connor McDavid didn’t even dress for the meaningless game between two teams locked into their playoff positions shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
Oh, and anyone who watched that game could see that Ho-Sang was working his ass off. Just like last year though, he’s easily the best player on his team.
No one can deny the raw talent. As Steve Simmons mentions in that same Toronto Sun article, when you watched the 2011-12 Toronto Marlboros it almost seemed like there was a competition between Ho-Sang and McDavid for which one would make more jaw-dropping plays in the game. As impressive as McDavid was for an underage player, Ho-Sang and current Ottawa 67’s forward Dante Salituro were hands-down the best players in the league that season.
And since being drafted, Ho-Sang’s said and done all the right things. At Rookie Camp this past summer with the Islanders, Ho-Sang seemed humbled by the stage.
“The fact that I get to wear this logo and the equipment, it’s a blessing.”
During that Rookie Camp, Ho-Sang was routinely the first player from his group on the ice and the last one off. He also took it upon himself to help Yuri Terao, an invite from Japan, figure out the drills as they were called out by the Islanders staff. The “maturity” issue that scared a lot of General Managers away from drafting Ho-Sang reared its ugly head as one of the youngest players on the ice took it upon himself to be a leader at his first NHL camp.
It’s hard to ignore the race factor in it all. Ho-Sang mentioned that Spitfires General Manager Warren Rychel would refer to him as a “Harlem Globetrotter”, which bothered him. “Analogies get related to basketball all the time with me. I don’t play basketball. I’ve never played basketball. I’m a hockey player. Why are they doing that?”
While the clear double-standard in the media’s handling of black hockey players compared to white hockey players is a topic for another time, it doesn’t change the fact that a player described by Craig Button as “a dynamic type player” and “one of the most highly skilled players in the draft” wasn’t even interviewed by twelve NHL franchises before last year’s draft because of perceived maturity and attitude issues.
Outside of a six-game suspension at the beginning of this season for a hit that took place last year, Ho-Sang has never been in trouble on or off the ice. He never punched a cab driver, or made vulgar comments about cops, or attacked a player on the ice with the intent to do serious damage—nope, he just said he believes he’s the best player in his draft class and told the media he wants to be the best player in the NHL. Apparently, confidence and a determination to be great is a terrible thing for a hockey player to have.
There are so many reasons why it’s hard to ignore a former NHL pest turned analyst bashing the work ethic of the Niagara Ice Dogs’ statistical leader, especially considering Ho-Sang joined the struggling squad as they had won just 5 of their first 18 through early November and was the catalyst that led the team to win 32 of their last 50 games and secure a playoff spot.
And his “selfish” play on the ice that people keep pointing to? Joshua Ho-Sang had 46 primary assists in the OHL this season. The next closest Niagara teammate was Carter Verhaeghe with 28. Only Mitch Marner, Dylan Strome, Kevin Labanc, Connor McDavid, and Max Domi had more primary assists this season.
Ho-Sang was the engine that powered the Ice Dogs to a 5th place finish in the OHL’s Eastern Conference and has mostly kept his mouth shut. He’s stayed out of trouble. He’s worked his ass off to turn a struggling Niagara team into one that was just a few wins away from home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and you know he’ll be working his ass off to make the NHL out of camp this upcoming summer and prove the doubters wrong.
Bantam, Midget, Junior, Pro hockey scout at International Scouting Services. Hofstra University alum.