Professional teams' locker rooms are all about hierarchy, conventions and respect must be earned. "Team chemistry" is often coded language for "the ability to walk in lock steps with everyone else." If you're a black Jewish kid with an Asian last name on the verge of a professional hockey career, you'd be wise to learn a thing or two about these unwritten rules.
Joshua Ho-Sang exudes the type of confidence that verges on arrogance. In a lengthy interview with the Toronto Sun ahead of this weekend's National Hockey League entry draft, Ho-Sang said: "If I was a general manager and had first pick in the draft, I'd pick me No. 1 ... In three years, I'll be the best player in this draft. And I have no doubt about that. I know myself. I know the other players. I believe in my ability. There are guys ranked ahead of me who are nowhere near me." Modesty isn't his strong suit.
Ho-Sang finished 18th in scoring last season in the Ontario Hockey League despite playing for the Windsor Spitfires, an average team. He finished ten spots behind Max Domi who's a year older and who played for the star-studded London Knights. Domi was selected 12th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2013 NHL entry draft. Ho-Sang could realistically expect a similar ranking. However, 12 out of 30 NHL teams chose NOT to interview him at the recent NHL combine. Despite Ho-Sang's electrifying talent, Hockey Canada didn't invite him to try out for the national junior team either. These snubs speak volumes about the general consensus about Ho-Sang. This is a case where perception becomes reality.
For whatever reason, minorities who display confidence in public have a tendency to rub the rest of society the wrong way. As a young, black orphan playing high caliber hockey and baseball in Shawinigan, my mouth often got me in trouble. I had no parents to sing my praises in public, so I blew my own horn as loud as I possibly could. In the process, I became known as a blowhard. Depending on where you stand across the ethnic divide, bragging can be interpreted as a source of motivation by some or as a form of rebellion by others.
The sports world is filled with examples. From former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali calling himself "the greatest of all time" to the Williams sisters' loud tennis outfits and prickly father. After Venus won the 2000 Wimbledon title, Richard Williams shouted "Straight Outta Compton!" (a pop culture reference to a song by N.W.A based on the family's roots in Los Angeles) and jumped over the NBC broadcasting booth, catching Chris Evert by surprise and performing a triumphant dance. Evert said she "thought the roof was coming down".
The most recent example is Richard Sherman, an NFL all-star cornerback with the Seattle Seahawks, the reigning Superbowl champions. His exuberant post-game interview with Erin Andrews following the NFC Championship game sparked a heated debate on social media with strong racial overtones. Sherman, who had just made a game-clinching pass deflection while covering 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, had harsh words for his divisional rival. "Well, I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me," Sherman told a startled Andrews. Some pundits branded Sherman, who graduated at the top of his class at Stanford, a "thug" for his fired-up comment. He's now on Sports Illustrated's list of most disliked people in sports.
In my opinion, bombastic statements are generally a defence mechanism by those who feel put upon by their community. However, as minorities we rarely control society's prevailing narrative. Therefor our comments are often misinterpreted. Professional sports is big business and players who attract controversy tend to scare away sponsors. If NHL teams aren't so keen on Joshua Ho-Sang, he only has himself to blame because he's unprepared for the media onslaught coming his way. The moment an NHL team selects him (he's too talented to be ignored), he will enter a world where his comments and actions, good or bad, will be overanalyzed by pundits, magnified by cameras and amplified on social media.
As Ho-Sang matures, he will have to refrain from giving reporters juicy quotes such as "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?" Ho-Sang doesn't need to burden himself with these questions. He just needs to surround himself with media-savvy advisors, ditch the hot-dog number, bite his tongue, flash a smile and let his immense talent do the talking. It worked wonders for a guy named Barack Obama.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: