The nearly five-hour bus ride from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Syracuse, New York was just about half over when Josh Ho-Sang got on a cell phone to talk about his season, his background, his future with the Islanders and his thoughts on the recently-deceased Larry Kwong, the first Asian to play in the NHL.
The common thread through the conversation was the 22-year-old prospect’s relentlessly upbeat attitude, which is currently focused on helping the Bridgeport Sound Tigers qualify for the AHL playoffs and not one bit on why things have not worked out so far playing for the Islanders.
Ho-Sang has been a lightning rod of attention, good and bad, since the Islanders selected the forward 28th overall in 2014. That year, his first training camp with the Islanders, ended on the first day when he was late. He has spent time with the Islanders both this season and last.
“Honestly, I’m a really happy person,” said Ho-Sang, who identifies as Chinese, Jamaican and Jewish. “I just see the beauty and the struggle. I play pro hockey for a living, what is there to be mad about? I’m a kid who knows this is what I love to do. I don’t want to upset people by saying I’m happy not playing in the NHL. I’d be happier if I was playing in the NHL for sure. But it was really hard for me up there at the beginning of the season.”
Ho-Sang had four assists in six games to start the season with the Islanders before being re-assigned to Bridgeport on Oct. 25. He had another 16-game stretch in the NHL between Nov. 11-Dec. 14 with two goals and six assists, but has been with the Sound Tigers since.
He had seven goals, 18 assists and 32 penalty minutes in 40 games for Bridgeport through Friday.
Ho-Sang assessed his play as “good,” while adding, “there’s stuff going on I can’t really say but I’m sure they’ll tell you at the end of the year.” Maybe that’s an injury issue. Perhaps not.
“Ultimately, they made their decision for this year,” Ho-Sang said. “I don’t necessarily think everything was warranted, but I do accept it because they want me to be the best version of me possible. That’s OK. How can you be mad at somebody who wants me to be great?”
Ho-Sang has one season remaining on his entry-level contract and wants to remain with the Islanders.
“I don’t want to go anywhere,” Ho-Sang said. “They’re nice to me. I just think the reality is stuff is going to happen and they’re going to put me on the team when they’re ready. I think when I’ve been on the team, I’ve had personal success along with the team having success. I think they know that and they’re just trying to figure it out. They’re good people. (GM) Garth Snow is a good man. (Coach) Doug Weight is a good man. I know they’re trying.”
Asked about Ho-Sang this week, Weight said, “He’s working things out and he’s playing hard so we’ll see what happens.”
Ho-Sang said he did not know much about Kwong, the British Columbia native who passed away at age 94 on March 15 after playing one shift for the Rangers on March 13, 1948 during a professional career that stretched from 1946-57.
But Ho-Sang said he could admire Kwong’s accomplishment.
“I don’t even know what the culture would have been like for him,” Ho-Sang said. “Obviously he had a great work ethic and persistence. There weren’t a lot of people like him playing. He stuck with what he wanted to do.”
Which is what Ho-Sang is doing now.
Bridgeport | Isles
40 Games 22
7 Goals 2
18 Assists 10
-1 Plus/minus -7