The best thing for Josh Ho-Sang's young career would be for him to get as far away from his home country as possible.
At this week's Team Canada World Junior camp, the Islanders prospect was asked again about the now year-old barbs he hurled at Hockey Canada for snubbing him from an invitation two years running. A story by TSN's Mark Masters manages to rehash all of the old criticisms of Ho-Sang while simultaneously and condescendingly positing that he is bringing a "new attitude" to camp.
Ho-Sang realizes he's starting to get quite a reputation.
"The hockey world constantly wants to know what I'm going to say and I'm not looking to make outrageous comments," he said. "I just, I love hockey and I want to play and I believe in myself. It's nothing more than that."
Ho-Sang badly wants to be on Canada's world junior team. As such, it's no surprise the Toronto native is downplaying his perceived feud with Hockey Canada. He says he hasn't had a heart-to-heart conversation with anyone with the organization. The message when he arrived at camp over the weekend was simple.
"They just said, 'You know, you're here, show us what you got.' And I said, 'Thanks, that's all I need.'"
Masters also cuts right to the heart of the problem: Ho-Sang does not adhere to the prescribed rules that young hockey players are expected to follow such as "Shut Up," "Keep Your Head Down" and "I said 'Shut The Hell Up!'"
Speaking out usually doesn't help an athlete get where he or she wants to go so why does Ho-Sang do it?
"People don't take into consideration that athletes are also every-day people. A lot of these guys in the NHL have families. They have to deal with a lot of the same problems that you do.
"For me, you know, it's just about showing that side. I'm not going to hide that from people. If I'm emotional about something, I'll show emotion with respect. I've always been like that. There's not too much that I care about when it comes to other people's opinions."
Masters' article is just one of a couple to come out of Team Canada camp about Ho-Sang's "new attitude" in the first two days. Terry Koshan also wrote a shorter version of the same story for the Toronto Sun, and uses Ho-Sang complimenting campmate Max Domi as possible proof that this is a different kid than the one who blew up Team Canada bosses last summer.
Maybe it's because the camp just started and Ho-Sang's invite after two snubs is an easy story to write. But these articles are part of a larger tapestry. Try finding a Ho-Sang profile that doesn't borrow heavily from Steve Simmons' 2014 pre-draft interview with Ho-Sang in which he said he would be the best player in the draft within three years and, if he were a GM, he would select himself first overall.
Of course the GM that did take him was perfectly happy about it.
Ho-Sang immediately clarified some of what Simmons had written about racial overtones in his relationship with Windsor Spitfires GM Warren Rychel. But that's not the part anyone remembers. Especially when two months later, Ho-Sang said he was "insulted" that he again didn't receive an invitation to Canada's World Junior camp and the whole argument started up again.
Confused? Don't worry about the details. The point is, the Royal Ice Hockey Establishment of Canada has unanimously decided that this is who Josh Ho-Sang is. He is "different." He is "outspoken." He is "brash." He is the either "the guy who has a bad attitude" or the "guy who had a bad attitude but is trying to show he's one of us now."
There is only one escape.
As Islanders fans, we are conditioned to lament the lack of media coverage our team gets in the crowded New York sports landscape. But being buried behind the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets and everyone else might work out beautifully for both the Islanders and Ho-Sang.
In Brooklyn, he won't be the "kid who told off Team Canada" because, quite frankly, the number of people here who care about Team Canada, the World Junior tournament and the hockey establishment could fit inside of one Williamsburg-parked Prius. If anything, telling off Team Canada will be seen as a badge of honor for him.
When he gets to Islanders camp this Fall, Josh Ho-Sang will be just a kid who can help the Islanders in the very near future. He will be the guy tantalizing fans with speed and skills and gif-worthy moments. They won't be waiting on what he's going to say next; they'll be waiting on when he's in the line-up first.
He'll be just another Islanders rookie in Manhattan, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Raleigh and anywhere else the Islanders play. A few short stops to play Canadian teams will give TSN and Sun Media time to dig right back into those old wounds before the Islanders jet off to someplace else.
And all the baggage he's accrued in his 19 years in Canada will be lost between Toronto Pearson International Airport and LaGuardia, as it should be.