I’m intrigued by the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent PTO signee Josh Ho-Sang. From everything I’ve heard about him, he was an exceedingly skilled and talented hockey player. He got drafted (the rumor is reluctantly) by the New York Islanders in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. In fact, the Islanders took a lot of heat for taking him.
In fact, I heard a story that the team who picked third during that Draft said that they hoped the team who had the second pick would pick him so they wouldn’t have to. At that point everyone knew his attitude was bad. [He was drafted 28th overall. So a lot of teams felt they didn’t have to take him.]
I’ve Been Watching YouTube Videos About Ho-Sang
Don Cherry Talks About Ho-Sang
Over the past week, I’ve been watching videos about Ho-Sang. What a puzzle. One video I watched, which was a Don Cherry episode from January, 2021, titled “Don Cherry on Josh Ho-Sang: He Was More Talented Than McDavid.”
In that episode, Cherry claimed that Ho-Sang was a more highly-skilled player than Connor McDavid. He could handle the puck better than McDavid. He was a faster skater than McDavid. In fact, Cherry believed that if Ho-Sang ever got his act together, he could become a great NHL hockey player.
His Former Islander Head Coach Doug Weight Supported Ho-Sang
In one video, talking about the NHL draft, Ho-Sang was attributed to saying that he promised whatever team took him that he’d be the best player in this entire draft within first three years. He wasn’t. But why?
The rumor has it that it’s all in his attitude. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had supporters. In that same video, his Islanders’ head coach at the time – former NHL player Doug Weight – said that when Ho-Sang was on the ice he generated offense; he owned the puck; and, he wanted it all the time – all positive attributes for an offensive player. Weight went on to say that Ho-Sang was an explosive skater with great hands. His skills and on-ice vision were “a five out of five.”
Where Might John Tavares Fit Into Ho-Sang’s PTO Signing?
Most interesting, in that same video, a current (or potential) teammate John Tavares was also the Islanders’ captain at the time Ho-Sang played with the team. Tavares essentially echoed the things that Weight said. Ho-Sang was a great player. He had great skills. He wanted the puck. He had all the characteristics that would make him an exceptional hockey player.
Just as interesting, there were videos of Ho-Sang and Taveres playing together on the same line. The videos showed them experiencing success. That makes me wonder if that connection was in Maple Leafs’ general manager of Kyle Dubas’ mind when he signed Ho-Sang to a PTO. He had to have asked Tavares for insight about the signing. It can’t be trivial that the two spent Ho-Sang’s his first year together on the Islanders.
Other Stories About Ho-Sang
Still, there are all these stories – rumors, perhaps. However, I watched videos of Ho-Sang on the ice for the Islanders ignoring defensive responsibilities and refusing be part of a line change. Selfish things, really. Those weren’t the only rumors of problems. Others says that, when Doug Weight was head coach, Ho-Sang wouldn’t come off the ice a number of times when there was a change. Who’s heard of a player doing that kind of blatant disobedience of a coach during a game.
Ho-Sang has also been reported as a “cancer” in the dressing room throughout his junior career and at times in his professional career. Rumors were that his attitude didn’t match his skill and didn’t reflect sportsmanship towards his teammates or his coaches. Rumors were that he went after (exploded) at the refs on the ice if he thought they missed a call.
The bottom line was that, despite his overwhelming talent offensively, having Ho-Sang on a team just wasn’t worth the damage he did to the teams he was on. In short, Ho-Sang had lots of talent, but not nearly enough discipline. He was consistently late to meetings. He was hard to coach, and he refused to be a two-way player.
Perhaps he grew up where he became so used to doing exactly what he wanted to do because of his considerable talent that he never developed the character to go with that talent. He became an individual player and not a team guy. One former player at a lower level noted that on the bench it was obvious he was on his own island and showed no respect for teammates.
So What Happens Now?
So what happens to Ho-Sang now? If it is his attitude, can he change it? Can he follow the rules of a coach who’s developing a winning team and not a Stars on Ice episode? In short, will he allow himself to fit into a hockey culture?
If he doesn’t, hockey won’t have any space for or time for him. Are the Maple Leafs his last chance? And, if so, does he know it and will he do anything about it?
Those questions will be answered during the upcoming training camp.
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