Islanders 2014 first rounder Joshua Ho-Sang remains one of the most interesting men in hockey. In an interview with Sportsnet’s Luke Fox from the BioSteel camp in Toronto, Ho-Sang sounds even more determined than ever to become an NHLer sooner rather than later.
Never one to shy away from his feelings, Ho-Sang was in rare form in the interview, talking about a ton of subjects ranging from his infamous expulsion from Islanders training camp last summer to the advice he gets from stars Connor McDavid and Tyler Seguin and his high-flying non-hockey dreams.
At the BioSteel Camp for the third straight year, Ho-Sang picked the brains of McDavid, a childhood friend, and Seguin, whom Ho-Sang describes Seguin as “a big brother” to him at the week-long camp.
We have the same agent. He didn’t want to come at me, but he passed messages through my agent, and my agent would show me the texts. He’s really treated me special. It seems like he tries to help everyone around him. Seeing that side of Tyler, it makes me laugh. It reminds me: People don’t know what’s really going on. People don’t really know how someone is. And it’s every day. He says hi. He corrects me on stuff I’m doing wrong. If he’s making fun of me or egging me on to be better, I like it.
He says that getting sent home from Islanders camp last summer was the best thing that could’ve happened to him because it sparked him to change his preparation, his outlook on the game and his habits off the ice.
You’re talking about bad habits away from the rink.
Yeah. I know if I played in the NHL last year I wouldn’t have changed those things. Those would’ve stuck with me for life. I would’ve been an NHL player who did that stuff. Now, I listen to my body every day and do something. I stretch. Before, if I felt like shit, I felt like shit. That change is attributed to being sent back. It sucked at the time. The reason I think about it every day is, every time I get up, I’m like, f***. Because if I’m late, then people are saying, “Josh is late.” I don’t care about being late in the grand scheme of things, like for a family event or meeting friends. I’m five minutes late—suck it up, bro. [laughs] But for this [hockey] stuff… like, I was the first one here today. Before 7 o’clock.
After a discussion about his assist rate increasing and his creativity, Ho-Sang gets to a section that will warm coach Jack Capuano’s heart more than hooking a great white shark off of Nantucket: a new dedication to backchecking.
I was changing my game into the game I need to play. I know I can play the other way. So it was kinda fun figuring it out. During the playoffs I was doing more skill stuff, the game I like. But during the season I was driving the net. I hate that, but I started doing it more. Standing in front of the net when the D has the puck. Hate it. Backchecking.
Why do you hate that stuff?
It’s not fun! But I finally got to the point where I decided this is what I want to do with my life. I had to switch my game up, and that’s what I’ve done. And I’ll keep doing that. If I lead the NHL in scoring one day, I’ll change my game the next year. The moment you stop getting better, you start getting worse. That’s a quote I’ve heard many times. Mike Cammalleri is a very powerful voice in the gym. He talks about that all the time.
On his relationship with the Islanders, Ho-Sang reiterates that the team maintained radio silence with him during his last OHL season. But now having returned for another rookie camp, Ho-Sang is ready to come to training camp with open ears.
After they sent you away, did the Islanders stay in contact with you during the season?
They didn’t talk to me all year, not until playoffs. They watched me play all year; they just wouldn’t tell me. They told my coach not to tell me. Shady, shady business. [laughs]
Why would they not tell you?
Honestly, I don’t want to speculate. It’s good. I went to rookie camp [in late June] and led rookie camp in points. I’ve done that the past three years, and that’s all the prospects. If I have to play in the AHL this year, I’ll come back the next year and do it again. That’s fine. Play better—that’s all I can do. If they want me to play in the AHL to work on my game, OK. What am I going to do? I’m not going to whine and complain. Just get better.
Finally, Ho-Sang’s answer to Fox’s what would you be if not a hockey player question is unique and funny and totally Ho-Sang.
What would you do if you weren’t playing?
Probably be an astronaut. I want to go to space real bad. Like, real bad.
Have you investigated that?
If I play in the NHL, I’ll have enough money to go to space. Reach for the stars, literally.
We’ve read (and shamelessly posted) more about Ho-Sang than any other Islanders prospect that I can remember. And he hasn’t even played a regular season game for them yet. He is a true one-of-a-kind voice in a sport full of “obviously, for sure” monotone types, including more than a few Islanders.
If he’s champing at the bit for Islanders camp to start, he’s not the only one. Not only could he infuse the team with a youthful injection of talent, but he’d give them some much-needed personality, too. We want him to get in on the action just as much as he wants to get there.
We’ve taken issue with Ho-Sang articles in the past that seemed to want to paint a picture of a rare animal being ground up by the hockey industrial complex. But in this Fox interview, Ho-Sang’s energy and excitement are almost palpable through the screen. Earlier at BioSteel camp, Ho-Sang demurred from talking to reporters (maybe that was just a Toronto Sun thing? If so, another smart move). But now he sounds as locked in as a band in the middle of a year-long tour. The entire article is worth a few reads.
Evolving your game and getting better every year is a key tenet players should adhere to. And that’s not old, geeky home blogger guy talking. That’s according to players like McDavid, Seguin, Cammalleri and John Tavares. Ho-Sang getting on that same program and continually pushing himself to add more arrows to his quiver is great to hear.
As a person that’s been rooting for him since his memorable draft day, I want him to be the best Josh Ho-Sang he can be. I just hope that doesn’t ever mean we lose the candid, compelling and charismatic Josh Ho-Sang we have now.
See you at camp, kid.