18-year-old New York Islanders draft pick Josh Ho-Sang said some pretty awesome stuff on Monday. I’d share those in full with you, but he said a lot of awesome stuff, so I’ll just give you the gist.
* He’s insulted that Hockey Canada hasn’t had him back to a camp in a year and a half.
* He believes that Hockey Canada’s job is the development and progression of Canadian hockey, but feels they grab players who have been developed elsewhere instead of working with guys who could actually use a hand.
* He has some lofty goals, including leading the NHL in points in three or four years(!), being better than John Tavares(!) and well, you get the idea. He wants to - and believes he will - be a star.
These comments - particularly those along the same vein as the last couple - will sound different to different groups of people.
They probably make the brass on Long Island a touch squeamish. Nothing he said was wrong, per se, but you’d prefer that your prospects not call out hockey organizations packed with powerful people.
They also won’t help his relationship with Hockey Canada.
They probably make fans love him, because it’s nice to see a hockey player make sounds that aren’t robotic and clichéd. You can’t help but root for a kid going at the dream from a slightly different angle.
But all that really matters here is how those (and other) remarks are received by his teammates, both present and future.
The comments themselves are, for the most part, a non-issue. Nobody within a dressing room is going to care that Ho-Sang took a shot or two at Hockey Canada because he believes he was wronged. That’s his war to wage. It’s cool that he wants to battle Tavares head on and try to be better than him. Playing good players is how you improve, after all. Few people are going to care about the content of Ho-Sang’s interesting but ultimately innocuous comments.
But teammates might care that he doesn’t fit perfectly into the hockey player mold from which they grew up believing they had to be poured. That isn’t right, sure, but that couldn’t matter any less. If the majority of a team has been brainwashed with the mantra “logo on the front not name on the back,” then you better make it clear that your priorities are in line or things will inevitably be more difficult.
If you’re in a room with a guy whose list of goals starts with “lead the NHL in scoring” and not “win a Stanley Cup,” you might wonder. If you’re in a room with the 28th pick who says he’s going to be the best player from his draft, you might wonder. Players won’t know if they’re dealing with a teammate who just happens to be a bit outspoken (which still means a few extra headaches), or if they’re dealing with a potential problem when things don't go perfectly smooth.
It’s good to take motivation from rejection, and Ho-Sang seems to have pulled pages from the Book of Michael Jordan. That he’s so intrinsically motivated to succeed eliminates one of the battles coaches have to fight with some players. He’s also talented. He’s also pretty damn smart. Josh Ho-Sang has a ton going for him.
That he’s open with the media (so far) has been great for many of us. Even progressive NHLer Ben Scrivens shared that sentiment on Twitter yesterday with “Preach @66jhosang.” But I also understand the dynamics of dressing room culture (as does Scrivens, of course), and it’s tough to imagine that Ho-Sang hasn’t at least raised a red flag or two before even getting into an exhibition game.
Maybe, in the end, it won’t matter. Maybe he does lead the league in scoring in three years. Or hell, maybe he simply becomes a valuable NHL contributor and a well-respected teammate for decades. After all, the dude is still an 18-year-old speaking from the heart.
But when you speak up confidently, differently in sports, you draw a lot of attention to yourself - particularly from players around the league and teammates. It’s August, and Ho-Sang has already pulled his share of eyeballs his way. For now, there’s not much to do but wonder.