Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 06/25/14 at 09:13 AM ET
You'll have to pardon me for saying this out loud: one of the most important parts of the draft combine in Toronto is that it gives teams the opportunity to interview players and get a bead on their mental maturity.
When you're 17 or 18 and you're an incredibly-talented hockey player, you tend to assume that your shit doesn't stink (frankly, that's the case for many 17-to-18-year-old males, period). I've found that players who don't eventually grow out of the me-me-me phase "don't make it" because they refuse to believe that they need to self-improve in terms of fitness, off-ice preparation or their on-ice skills.
In the case of controversial Windsor Spitfires prospect Josh Ho-Sang, his long-term suspension and team-related indiscretions get lumped in with a harder Canadian question: are scouts and teams allowing immaturity and intense personality to lump him in with the Evander Kanes, Dustin Byfugliens and P.K. Subbans of the hockey world because he's black?
The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons profiled Ho-Sang, stating that more than a few teams have the 5'11," 175-pound forward on their "No-Draft List," and Simmons found that Ho-Sang was more than willing to address the elephant in the room:
Ho-Sang does wonder if in a very white hockey world, he isn’t looked upon differently because of his colour.
He had some difficulties with his general manager, Warren Rychel, and others in Windsor and worries about what has been said about him.
“I think colour definitely plays a factor in perception,” said Ho-Sang. “People watch my games and are very critical. When I start dangling, my GM calls me a Harlem Globetrotter. Why am I a Harlem Globetrotter? Analogies get related to basketball all the time with me. I don’t play basketball. I’ve never played basketball. I’m a hockey player. Why are they doing that?
“When I do anything, I’m just another black kid with attitude. I think I get misunderstood because these guys want to figure me out without talking to me and try to come up with every single reason why there’s something wrong with me. With all this going on, the only place I can win this argument is on the ice.”
But Ho-Sang is bright enough to know that if he gets there, when he gets there, he won’t just be another player — he can’t just be another player.
Is this just an 18-year-old who's a little immature talking?
“I’m emotional,” he said. “I’m more emotional than most people. That poses a problem for the hockey world. A lot of players are trained to hold their emotions. Look at Sidney Crosby, how much emotion do you see? Pavel Datsyuk, the same. Jonathan Toews, the same. All stone-faced. P.K. gets into trouble. Kane gets in trouble. The guys with more personality play with something more.
“I love to dangle. I love to play an offensive game. I love to celebrate when I score. I believe in myself. And when I tell them that, they take from that what they want.”
Simmons continues at extended length, and he certainly speaks his mind, so he'll allow you to draw your own conclusions.
I find this very in-vogue-in-Canada question as to whether players who are black are subject to a different set of behavioral rules all very troubling. When I grew up playing street hockey with the kids who weren't quite good enough to play on the high school team, I played with my Korean-American pal who introduced me to hockey, I played with Arab-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, youg men of all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds and religions, etc., and someone's ethnicity or background just didn't fare into the, "Do I want him on my team?" equation.
We obviously still live in a world where race matters, where ethnicity matters, where nationality matters (just ask Don Cherry), where gender matters, where sexuality matters, and that's not going to change, but I still think it's a real shame that so many people still judge hockey players based upon what they look like. That ain't right.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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