Joey Hishon played his junior hockey in the OHL for the Owen Sound Attack. He was the first round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2010. After spending some seasons in the NHL and AHL he moved to Finland. He currently plays for Jokerit in the KHL. He agreed to talk with us about his career, the differences between Europe and North America, and hockey in general.
Why do you love the game? Are there perhaps things that annoy you?
I’m not sure why I love the game. I love ice cream too and I can’t explain that either. The trap annoys me, I can’t stand it. The 1-4 trap…. give me a break! I do understand it on the big ice though, you have to slow guys down somehow.
Have you had to change your style at all playing in Europe?
Big time. Before coming to Europe I had the mindset; “hockey is hockey, big ice, small ice – it’s not going to change anything.” I was wrong. The KHL is a straight 1-4 trap league, almost every single team plays the same way and it makes it really hard to create any offence off the rush. The other big difference is the way players turn offensive situations into 1 on 1s. In North America we are taught to support the puck and create little triangles all over the ice to utilize give and go plays. Some Russian teams still seem to use that technique but the majority of times we are being told to go to the net and leave the guy with the puck to win his 1-on-1 battle. It’s been a very challenging adjustment but I feel I’m learning every day.
Have any experiences / coaches / players / role models / other events significantly shaped your career?
Mark Reeds coached me for 214 regular season and 26 playoff games over 4 years in Owen Sound. I can’t put into words how much Mark taught me about the game of hockey, but more importantly life. We won the 2011 OHL championship together. Mark and I kept in touch when he moved on to coach the Ottawa Senators and I turned pro. I scored my first NHL goal April 8th 2015. Mark Passed away 6 days later, April 14th 2015. He lost his battle to esophageal cancer. He witnessed what would be the only NHL goal I ever scored and I wouldn’t trade that for 100 goals without him watching. You’re my idol Mark.
Describe the player you’ve learnt the most from. What did he say to you? How did he play?
There have been many, but one story about a particular player sticks out in my mind; Jarome Iginla. I was up with the Avalanche in March 2015 and we were doing a 2 on 1 drill in practice. I was nervous, so every time I touched the puck I would just shoot it as hard as I could off the far pad and hope for a rebound (AHL hockey baby!). That’s when Iggy grabbed me and said: “Hey kid, anyone can come up here and rip it far pad, you have the skill to make plays, just relax and play.” He said it with a huge smile and made me feel like I was really part of the team. I think I called everyone in my contact list after practice; “Hey guess what Iggy said to me” haha!
What are your intangibles that you bring to your game?
I like to think I’m a skilled forward who thinks the game at a high level and makes players around me better.
What do you think makes a team a championship winning team?
Championship winning teams all seem to have great relationships between teammates at the rink as well as away from the rink. I believe the closer relationships are between teammates, the more everyone will be willing to battle for each other.
What are important skills in your eyes?
Hockey sense number one no questions asked. After that I think it depends on what you’re looking for, but compete level is also extremely important. Hockey is an honest game, the best players in the world compete the hardest.
What are the most important stats? and how would you best measure a player’s worth to a team?
Hockey is a business, there is only one question that applies to anything in pro hockey:
“What have you done for me lately?”
As a player, if you take care of that question with your play, there will always be a job for you. Your “stats” will probably look good too. Measuring a player’s worth is tough, but I would say the only measurement tools are teammates’ eyes and coaches’ trust.
Do you have any hockey pet peeves?
Bag skating. I think bag skating is the most pointless thing you can do. It ruins your stride and trains your body to move slow. I see bag skating as a sign of a lazy coach.
What words of advice would you have for a talented 15-year-old?
Assuming this 15-year-old is already on a strict off-ice program. (kids seem to be working out with full time personal trainers when they turn 7 these days) I would try and explain how important it is to keep a consistent work rate, don’t get too high when things are going well and don’t get too low when things aren’t. Keep working no matter what.
If you could make one rule change to the game of hockey, what would it be?
Soccer nets. Then maybe I could score more goals. Goalies these days are unbelievable.
Who that you have played with did you have the best chemistry with? What are his assets and why did you play well together?
Two different guys with two completely different styles. Andrew Wilkins and Garrett Wilson. I played with both these guys in Owen Sound. Wilky was a pure passer, not the fastest skater but he saw the game at an elite level. We were always looking for each other and he could thread the needle. At 6’2, 215, Willy was an absolute workhorse when we played together. He created so much space for me with his size and kept everyone on the other team honest. He also has the skill to make little give and go plays. Willy also always found a way to get open by moving his feet and jumping in holes after he would finish checks.
Under what circumstances do you play the best? Why does this bring out the best in you?
I have always been a player who is at my best when the other team plays extra hard against me, I think it brings my intensity and compete level up and makes me more mentally engaged.
What was your favorite on-ice hockey experience in recent memory?
Winning the OHL championship with Owen Sound in 2011. We had such a great group of guys and unbelievable coaches in Mark Reeds and Terry Virtue.
What was your favorite off-ice hockey experience in recent memory?
On January 11th, 2015, my girlfriend and I rescued a Border Collie from a dog shelter just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. She has brought nothing but happiness to our lives over the past two years.
Generally, the first thing you hear about Joey Hishon is his high skill set. Which is very true but there’s more to him than that. Joey is very driven and loves the game. He uses his creativity and high hockey IQ to be a very dangerous player. Most importantly he’s a great person. His joy for the game is contagious and helps everyone around him. And lastly, he is inspiring. He overcame adversity aftermissing almost two years. He made his way through it, becoming the player and person he is today.
Colin Smith – Toronto Marlies
What makes Hish unique and a good player is obviously his skill with the puck but more importantly his compete level. I’ve never seen a guy as competitive as him. He will do whatever it takes to win.
Garrett Wilson – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Hish is a very smart, skilled player. When he’s in his creative system not many players see the game like him. Hish also has a very feisty side to him which is great for the type of game he plays. Not only is Hish a great player, but he’s also a great friend. He has a very witty side to him and always creates a much more fun environment with his sense of humor. Furthermore, he has been someone that I can confide in over the years and vice versa.
Cal O’Reilly – Buffalo Sabres