Tuesday night was the first day of cuts for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
But it was also a moment Josh Ho-Sang could hold onto for a long time. After spending most of the training camp with Toronto on a PTO, the 25-year-old finally signed a contract within the Leafs organization.
Ho-Sang signed an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies on Tuesday night.
“For me, I really wanted to be here.” Ho-Sang said after his first practice with the Marlies. “I have a lot of faith in Kyle Dubas and I have a lot of faith in this organization. To me, obviously playing for the Leafs is extraordinary, but what actually sold me on everything was the people here.“
The 25-year-old has been through a lot. Bouncing around between the AHL and NHL was tough, but then he was sent to Europe. And moving across the world may not have been the easiest either.
Earlier in Leafs camp, he spoke about the coach and GM on Linkopings HC in Sweden and what they did for his career. And now, he’s on a new path, and that’s to get back to the NHL.
“I think since last year, I was in Europe, and then coming back here, I think it’s been a lot of learning about myself.” Said Ho-Sang. “I think you learn how resilient you can be, and I also think you realise how important it is to have people who help you. Like I went to therapy, I talked to my friends, I talked to my family, I outsourced, like I talked to a lot of people who maybe weren’t involved in hockey, just involved in the regular work world. I think sometimes being able to receive perspective from other people and also being able to express how you feel in a non-judgemental environment, I think that that can really help you find out about yourself and grow, and that’s something I recommend to everyone and for me, that’s definitely how I’ve learned about myself and in terms of what I’ve learned is just to keep plugging away.“
Today, at Marlies camp, there wasn’t a whole lot of line rushes. Ho-Sang did get to skate with Pavel Gogolev and Nick Robertson on a line, but he skated with a lot of other players as well.
This AHL season is going to be longer than last. There will be a lot of back-to-backs and many nights spent on the road. How the players react to the high amounts of games will be interesting, especially with players not playing many games in the past year and a half.
Ho-Sang, though, says you won’t notice anything until, maybe, the 40th game.
“I think it’s going to be the mental side more than the physical to be honest. Covid has been a different kind of grind for athletes in general and I think getting back to the season and the routine is definitely going to be different.” Said Ho-Sang. “Learning how to manage yourself in this new world that we’re living in, being able to stay focused, but also stay relaxed and take the time when you need it and coming to rink and giving 100%, I think that as a group and the staff, they help us a tremendous amount and I don’t think there should be any issues.“
It’s a new season for everyone. That means you can hit the reset button. Spending a lot of time at Leafs training camp, and now at Marlies camp, Head Coach, Greg Moore, likes what he sees from Ho-Sang.
“He’s been awesome. I wouldn’t say a surprise, but when I’m in and around the Leafs training camp, I hang in the back and more observing what’s going on, not running anything.” Moore said after the Marlies second day of training camp. “Today, Josh came flying in, great energy, found all the staff in every room, made sure to say ‘Hi’ — it was awesome. He brought in a lot of really good vibes today. It translated to how he practiced. It was a good start.“
What’s most interesting is seeing what Ho-Sang brings to the Marlies. He’s played 178 games in the AHL, racking up 123 points in that span. Playing for his city and himself, you could see an entirely different player from the one in the past.
“I’m really happy everything worked out with the PTO, and that I earned myself an opportunity here and I’m hoping to just run with it.”