It's not often that a player's skates captivate the hockey world.
But that's what happened when Josh Ho-Sang tweeted out his "New Wheels," a pair of custom-painted hockey skates, complete with Pollock paint splatters and graffiti of his name and number. The skates are as one-of-a-kind as Ho-Sang. Over 300 retweets, 2,200 likes and 130 comments later, Ho-Sang's new skates were the talk of hockey Twitter.
But that's just the start of the conversation for the Islanders' winger. He's using the spotlight on his skates to shine a light on a pair of issues he cares about - getting clothes for the homeless in New York and those affected by the hurricanes that recently ravaged the southern US.
How exactly do the skates fit into this? Ho-Sang plans to raffle them off to fans who donate new or gently-used clothing. Bins will be set up at Northwell Health Ice Center from Sept. 17 to Oct. 4.
"There's a lot of people who want to do stuff for the Hurricane and homeless people, but they don't know how to," Ho-Sang said. "This is a good way to give people an avenue [to do so]."
Each donation equals one raffle ticket - per person - for the skates because Ho-Sang wants everyone to get involved and for anyone to be able to win them, which is why they're not being auctioned off. Second prize is two tickets to an Islanders home game and third prize is a piece of apparel from the team store.
"We thought doing a clothing drive would be advantageous because it gives everyone an opportunity to win the skates," Ho-Sang said. "But at the end of the day, the lives you get to touch, the people you get to help is much more important."
This isn't the first time Ho-Sang has participated in humanitarian work. In a 2015 the Islanders' winger painted a school in Jamaica.
"As an athlete, especially a professional one you have the gift of a platform and with that platform you have the ability to touch a lot of lives and reach all over," Ho-Sang said.
This initiative blends the athletic and artistic sides of Ho-Sang. He uses painting as his creative outlet and while he didn't physically put brush to blade, the idea of painted skates seemed to satisfy the two sides. He says the theme of the skates is yin and yang.
"I'm a big believer in yin and yang, good and bad. That's what the contrast is in these skates if you see the ink blots. Black on white and the white on the black," Ho-Sang said. "I knew this may not tickle everybody's fancy, but this is personal, this is for me. Whoever gets these skates, this is the artistic side of me."
Ho-Sang commissioned the design from a Toronto-based graffiti artist and friend known as WorkingSpy3000. The "Ho-Sang" and "66" are both drawn in graffiti and immediately jump out, but there are little details hidden in the design. His favorite detail of the skates he wore throughout Rookie Camp are the markings on the back.
"I'm sure regular skates would get a buzz, but these are the first of their kind," Ho-Sang said. "Whoever wins them, I'll sign them, take a picture with you and just tell you how much I appreciate you participating in this event. For me, it's important to try and help those who are less fortunate."