1. First glance
Fans who made the trek to Brooklyn for the New York Islanders 2015 Blue and White Scrimmage likely came for one of the two following reasons: the tickets were a mere ten bucks, and an enigma, 19-year-old winger Joshua Ho-Sang, was skating the Barclays Center ice for the first time.
My dad and I were there — wandering, listening to the soundtrack of Seven Nation Army, scouting out the team’s new home.
The stadium organ waltz of another optimistic offseason was the soundtrack of our summers.
Laughingstocks of the league. Embarrassments. Shitty team for a shitty stadium. Those were words seemingly synonymous with Long Island’s team just a couple of seasons ago, before guys like Michael Dal Colle, Joshua Ho-Sang and Ryan Strome found their way into blue and orange.
We’re here to see Ho-Sang, a slender kid who looks quite snazzy in Islanders colors. Just a couple of hours before the scrimmage, he could have been spotted in compression shorts and a grey sweatshirt, complete with bulky headphones and neon Nike sneakers.
The recently drafted winger had gone through a whirlwind of activities the past year, ranging from his selection in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft to being dubbed as a bad teammate to Garth Snow claiming that “They s— on me, too” after he was drafted last year.
Me, my dad, the Isles fans in my section, the Blue and Orange Army to the right of us, and the rest of the Isles diehard who packed into a single LIRR train to make it to the event thought that’s what makes him such a special player. Between the “Ho-Sang, Ho-Sang, Ho-Sang, Ho-Sang” chants echoed to the tune of “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” and the abundance of nifty moves he utilized to score and set up a handful of goals, we couldn’t help but wondering how this frowned upon playmaker fell to the bottom of the first round.
2. The prospect
SCOUTING REPORT: Josh Ho-Sang, age 19, by The Scouting Report
“Ho-Sang has been a known commodity in scouting circles since a memorable season as an underaged player with the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget team in 2010-11. The undersized forward is an absolute wizard with the puck and his powerful strides are often enough to beat any defender when he really wants to. Consistency is the major red flag that jumps out with Ho-Sang’s game, however, and is something that really mitigates his upside as a first round pick. The 5-foot-11 forward can be the best player on the ice when he wants to be, but he often takes shifts (or games) off and really leaves a lot to be desired. If he can find some consistency this season there is no doubt that his skill-set alone is up there with anyone in this draft.“
SCOUTING REPORT: Josh Ho-Sang, age 19, by Bill Placzek of DraftSite.com
“The Jamacian-Canadian is an all-compass skater with gliding edges who has an advanced skill-set and great jump. Get defenders on their heel as he darts to the open spaces, to the puck carrier, and to shoot the puck. Still a lightweight in need of functional strength, he nonetheless is a threat most times the puck is on his stick. Shoots the puck extremely well. Has soft hands and handles the puck at top speed, and seems to get the jump on defenders and weave his way laterally around them with relative ease. Has an excellent release and an offensive mentality. Will need to get stronger to handle bigger players defending against him. When he has the space he is a dynamic possession player. Tends to depend more on his own abilities and tend to be a one-man show, refusing to pass the puck to open the ice. Sees himself as the best option on most attacks and the opposition has begun to know that. An exciting highly skilled player and finisher who is exciting to watch.“
3. Draft day
“With the twenty eighth selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, the New York Islanders are proud to select, from the Windsor Spitfires, Joshua Ho-Sang.”
Amid the furor surrounding the brash 21 year olds comments a couple of days before the draft that he is going to be the best player selected in 2014, Garth Snow audaciously traded to select the play making phenom.
“They were definitely the nicest,” Ho-Sang said after the team took him 28th overall. “They just talked to me, they asked me some questions. I mean, the Islanders were one of the few teams, and I heard it with a lot of guys, they were asking me questions outside of hockey, just kind of getting to know them. I think that’s unbelievable that they did that, and obviously I ended up here because of that. They took the time to kind of talk to me and I appreciate that very much. And the fact that they traded up for me is unbelievable.”
Still, the brash Jamaican-Chilean-Chinese-Canadian player whose reputation for cockiness turned off clubs that might have chosen him, needed the support of his General Manager when the public started questioning the rationale of the pick.
“They s— on me, too,” the trusted decision-maker told TSN the night of the Draft. “We get the players who we feel can help us win a championship.”
His scouting report before the Draft, via ISS Hockey:
While Ho-Sang is undeniably a terrific offensive talent, his game requires a certain level of growth. A tremendous natural goal scorer with speed who is a threat to put the puck in net whenever he is on the ice. A magician with the puck that has a wide array of moves to keep opposing defenseman honest with him. Lacks ideal size and strength from a front- line NHL forward and he can be neutralized if he is knocked off the puck too often. He needs to get stronger and get better puck protection skills to be an effective player at the next level. Ho-Sang is a finesse player who can dazzle you with his skating and talent but at times leaves you wanting more.
That wanting more comes in the form of his maturity, which has been questioned tremendously since being drafted.
He defends his personality, though.
“The guys with more personality play with something more,” he said. “I love to dangle. I love to play an offensive game. I love to celebrate when I score. I believe in myself.”
4. Family heritage
If you were informed of Ho-Sang’s personal family background, you likely wouldn’t think that his personality is the wackiest thing about him.
A Jamaican-Chilean-Chinese-Canadian hockey player whose mother is Jewish and father is a tennis pro, Ho-Sang celebrates Jewish holidays like Chanukah and the High Holidays with family and friends.
“When he was 17 years old, Toronto Sun writer Steve Simmons, an expert on Jews in hockey, predicted that ‘he might he better than all’ the previous Jewish ice hockey players (which included the then-current Jewish NHL players center Mike Cammalleri, right winger Mike Brown, left winger Eric Nystrom, and center Jeff Halpern),” according to Wikipedia.
His father, who is a black Jamaican from Kingston, Jamaica, is a tennis professional who had a Chinese grandfather and is married to a Jewish woman from Santiago, Chile, who’s parents are Russian and Swedish.
The Toronto, Ontario native has a wacky personality — and an even wackier heritage.
Windsor Spitfires right winger Josh Ho-Sang was suspended 15 games for making contact with London’s Zach Bell in Game 4 of a playoff sweep by the Knights, causing the defenseman to crash into the boards, breaking his leg on the play, and forcing the 21-year-old to end his Ontario Hockey League career.
“We’re disappointed with the league’s ruling,” Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner said in a statement released by the team. “In reviewing the play, we felt the contact between Josh and the London player was incidental in nature.”
The rationale for the suspension, which resulted after Ho-Sang was called for a two-minute minor penalty, had to do with the idea that Bell was injured on the play.
“You have a player that pushes another player from behind causing him to lose his balance,” OHL vice-president Ted Baker said in discussing the suspension.
“Unfortunately for both players, it results in a serious injury therefore, the accountability was to Josh.”
“If Zach falls and gets up, we’re not having this conversation,” Baker said.
“It is heavy, but at end of day we can’t lose sight of the fact a player has a broken leg or ankle as a result of that action,” Baker said. “Again, if there’s no injury, we’re not talking.”
In November 2014, the Windsor Spitfires traded Ho-Sang to the Niagara Ice Dogs, who were only 5-13 at the time, but within reach of moving up in the Eastern Conference’s Central Division.
The move came as no surprise. Poor team’s — such as the last-place Spitfires — often trade their stars in order to restock. The Oshawa Generals did the same thing with Isles captain John Tavares, who they sent to London at the end of his draft season.
Ho-Sang was off to a tremendous start in the OHL, and a report out of Windsor provided details as to why he was swapped:
It is believed the Spitfires were waiting for Ho-Sang to waive his no-trade clause and sign off on a deal for forward Hayden McCool and three second-round draft picks.
7. ‘Better team’
“We don’t have that horse. We knew that when we traded [Ho-Sang],” Windsor president and head coach Bob Boughner told the Windsor Star as the team cleaned out its lockers. “The hockey world, and the true people that know what was going on inside our four walls, know that.
“It was mandatory that we had to trade him. For many, many, numerous internal reasons, the people that truly know what went on behind the scenes would understand why we had to trade him.”
“We might not be a better team in the standings because of [trading Ho-Sang], but we’re definitely a better team within our four walls and it’s only going to help for the future,” Boughner said. “I like our deal. I like stocking picks up; I like McCool. I think he’s been inconsistent at times, but I think there’s a lot more there.”
“People will find what they want to find in what I say. I just speak my mind. If people want to make me seem like an asshole, go ahead. It’s cool.”
8. Yanked off ice
During the Niagara IceDogs’ 2015 season-ending loss to the Oshawa Generals in the OHL playoffs, Ho-Sang was yanked off the ice by interim coach Dave Bell after he took a goaltender interference penalty with 2:42 remaining in the third period that led to Cole Cassels scoring a goal that put the game out of reach.
In the final seconds of the game, with Ho-Sang attempting to enter the ice, Bell reached over and hauled the Islanders draft pick back into the bench.
It’s a shame really, that this is the lasting image of Ho-Sang in the playoffs, as the forward was a key contributor to his team’s sucess, racking up 16 points over 11 games. He was also likely the best attacker in the entire league alongside Connor McDavid at the time of the incident.
It’s not like the penalty call was all too great either. It is quite evident that Oshawa goalie Ken Appleby tripped him and then flopped as if Ho-Sang was the one to draw contact.
9. Moves like jagger
If Ho-Sang one day has a locker in Barclays Center with his name etched onto it, it will likely have to with his deking and dangling, which ranks among the best in the world.
Soft hands, quick feet and a perfect touch assist the über-skilled playmaker in getting his goals on ESPN SportsCenter.
Ho-Sang was part of a group that helped build a schoolhouse in a community outside of Montego Bay in Jamaica this summer,” The Windsor Star reported.
Joining Helping Hands Jamaica, a foundation which builds schools in the Caribbean island, the prospect, whose father was born in the country, helped give back.
“I wanted to try to find a way to give back,” Ho-Sang told nhl.com.
“It’s not like a charity thing. It’s more of a helping thing. I met an older man who was telling me about how he built schools and I said, ‘Oh, I have to get in on that.’
“It was something I’d encourage everyone to do.”
This article was inspired by the folks at SB Nation Longform, who detailed Greg Maddux’s life in “13 Ways of Looking at Greg Maddux.”
Written and edited by Justin Weiss.
Layout by some good folks at FanSided and SB Nation.