For an unconventional 2020 NHL Draft, the San Jose Sharks wanted to do something for their pick that made up for not being able to welcome him to the organization on the grand stage.
And all it took was a small hand gesture.
Sharks director of scouting, Doug Wilson Jr., used American Sign Language to announce the 31st pick in the draft, forward Ozzy Wiesblatt, whose mother Kim is deaf and is a single mom to five children.
“That means a ton, especially to my mom, and just the deaf community in general,” Wiesblatt said. “It’s just a very nice gesture for him to do. And my mom will never forget that.”
Wilson Jr. spoke highly of Wiesblatt’s character and family, both of which played a big part in San Jose selecting the 18-year-old who played for Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League.
“He’s an unbelievable kid with an unbelievable family,” Wilson Jr. said. “It’s a bunch of hard workers. He’s got character. He’ll run through the wall for you. This is a huge moment for 17 and 18 year olds. In my life, my mom is a huge factor, she really is. If I was in this moment, I would want to be able to share it with my parents too.”
Wilson Jr. added that he wished he could have delivered the news with more sign language.
“I would have loved to have done his whole name but I’m not that smart,” he said. “I just wanted to tell the kid that you’re a part of the Sharks family and we’re really excited for you. So, very happy to have Ozzy with us.”
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson Sr. said it was important for the team to convey unity in the unusual circumstances of the draft. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held virtually instead of the normal in-arena ceremony that was supposed to be at Bell Centre in Montreal this year.
Helping that effort were Sharks defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson and forwards Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc, who surprised Wiesblatt by calling into his post-draft video press conference and expressed congratulations as well as excitement to meet and play with him.
“The one thing we’re trying to do is connect our whole group and I’m proud of our guys,” he said. “I’ve got four or five guys calling in after one drafted player – it connects people, the emotion, the story. And we’re just really excited about [Wiesblatt’s] attitude and the ingredients he brings to this group.
“Dougie was all over this player, was fighting for this player. It fell right to a place that we were able to get him. I think it’s a great moment, I really do, when you get just that influx of attitude that people want to rally around, and this kid can play.”
It’s safe to say the message hit home for Wiesblatt.
“I think already I can tell that the Sharks organization is a family and I’m just ecstatic to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”
Staff Writer Amalie Benjamin contributed to this story.