While making the San Jose Sharks’ first-round selection in tonight’s 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Doug Wilson Jr., the Sharks’ director of amateur scouting, took a pause and raised his hand to fingerspell four letters: O-Z-Z-Y.
Their first-round selection, Ozzy Weisblatt, uses ASL to communicate with his mother, Kim White. She’s been deaf since birth and her five children — four boys and one girl — have all grown up speaking ASL. She’s even been know to chirp them from her seat in ASL:
“When we’re in the penalty box, she can give us crap from anywhere in the stands,” Ozzy’s oldest brother, Ocean, told The Star.
It’s an incredibly touching moment from Doug Wilson Jr., one that reminds me why I’m proud to be a Sharks fan. This moment isn’t just going to change Ozzy’s life: letting his family and his mother be the first to know that he’s got a new hockey home allows them to be part of the moment fully and intimately. I won’t lie, it made me tear up.
It means something because Ozzy isn’t deaf. Doug Wilson Jr. didn’t need to use ASL to communicate with Wiesblatt himself. Often, accommodations such as a sign-language interpreter (or subtitles, or yes, even just looking someone in the face when speaking to them, among others) are an after-thought (at best) or begrudgingly half-assed (at worst). It’s an admittedly low bar — to give those accommodations, with the purpose of making his entire family feel welcome — when it seems like it’s just the right thing to do.
And that’s absolutely correct. It is the right thing to do. But sometimes the right thing to do is exceptionally easy, and people still don’t think to do it. It’s not a character condemnation when I say this, but most people are hard-wired to be self-centered. We need it in this base instinct kind of way, doing everything we can to protect ourselves, to address our own needs first.
Sometimes in doing so, we leave the people who aren’t just like us behind, without meaning to. We could announce the pick like any other, assuming his mother would understand because people who need accommodations learn to adapt, just like anyone. Instead, the Sharks and Doug Wilson Jr. deliberately brought her into the moment and I am so happy that she got to have that. It would have been very easy for her to have not.
Sometimes people need a reminder that doing a good thing that makes that world a little more accessible can be as easy as fingerspelling four letters.
I know that where ever I am when he scores his first goal in teal, I’ll be signing those four letters too. That’s how Kim cheers for him, after all.