By JACK LEGWIN
Josh Norris’ story is different than most in the game of hockey.
“Not many people know this part of the story,” Norris said. “I actually grew up in Germany until I was 10. My childhood was different than most people. I really cherished my time there. I got to watch my dad play on the backend of his pro hockey career. He was my idol. I got to play on a line with my older brother, and my younger brother and I played in some tournaments together too. We moved to Michigan a bit after that, and I grew up there, got a chance to play for the National team in Plymouth, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Growing up in Europe gave Norris extra appreciation for the game of hockey outside of the states.
“I really saw that there’s a whole different part of the world that loves the game of hockey,” Norris said. “There’s great hockey in Europe. You really saw that last year in the draft. Several of the guys taken early are from there. I cherished my time there, I loved living there. It’s great to see that the game is growing.”
The No. 19 overall pick in this past year’s NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks, Norris said his time in Chicago at the draft is a time he won’t forget any time soon.
“It was a great day, a lot of fun,” Norris said. “There’s a lot of nerves and you’re anxious a lot. I had my family and friends there to help me get through it. Once I got drafted, it was very exciting, very humbling, I was very thankful. It was great to have the family and friends there. They’ve helped me so much throughout my career, and to give back to them was great.”
Norris participated in the San Jose Sharks’ developmental camp and really came away very impressed by the organization.
“Everyone there is first class, really respectful, always wanting to help you. I can go to anyone there and they’d do the best to help me out. There were some older guys there too, Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier. They did a great job at mentoring the younger guys, it’s really a first class organization.”
Being around Labanc and Meier proved to pay dividends for Norris, allowing him to see what it will take to succeed at the next level.
“I think it was just the way they handled themselves,” Norris said. “We actually went to a minor league baseball game. It was cool to see how they handled themselves around everyone. There were a couple days where Labanc and I were on the same team, and I caught myself following him around to see what he was doing. Little things that like will benefit me for the future.”
In regards to his future development with the Sharks, Norris expressed a desire to focus on the current task at hand of winning games in the Big Ten.
“They don’t have a timeline set,” Norris said. “They just told me to work to get better every day and mature. When I’m ready, I’ll get called up, but you never really know when that time is going to be. I’m really just focused on my time at Michigan. Doing my best to use the resources they have here.”
Earning a chance to play in the USA World Junior’s tournament, Norris said he came away with a great appreciation for the teammates he played with.
“The talent level is off the charts,” Norris said. “Every team there is good, but with the US Team, we were pretty deep we had about 10 guys up front, we were deep on the back end and had three great goalies. It was definitely great to be around those guys and learn from them.”
Norris pointed to one particular game that really stood out for him in the tournament: USA vs. Canada in “the blizzard seen ’round the world.”
“To this day, that was probably the coolest experience I’ve had playing in a hockey game,” Norris said. “There was roughly 45,000 people or so there, so just from that standpoint it was pretty incredible. It was snowing too. It’s a game that you dream about. For me, that was a great experience that I’ll never forget.”
With his family about 60 miles away in Oxford, Norris said that staying closer to home was a big factor in his decision to commit to Michigan initially.
“I wanted to stay as close to home as possible,” Norris said. “I wanted for my parents to be able to come and watch me play. They’ve been a huge part of my success. Whatever I can do to make sure they can come and watch me.”
A member of the Team USA National Team Development Program (NTDP) for two years, Norris said there was a slight adjustment at first in college, but playing in the National program helped smooth out the transition to playing for the Wolverines.
“It’s bit of an adjustment coming from junior hockey for sure,” Norris said. “We played a fair amount of games last year at the NTDP, so that helped me. I have to take it to another gear though, and I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now.”
With teammate Quinn Hughes now going through the same draft process Norris went through last year, Josh said they hadn’t spoken much about it, but he has been and will continue to be there for support.
“We’ve spoken about it a little,” Norris said. “We really try to not talk about it that much because it gets in your head, and there’s a lot of noise. He’s done a great job handling that. He’s rated very highly, so pressure comes with that. If he wants to talk about something, I’m there for him for sure.”
Scoring 16 points (8G- 8A) through 26 games for Michigan, Norris has led them to a 12-12-2 record, with some important conference games coming up soon against Wisconsin, Michigan State and a second shot at Notre Dame.
“From the first Notre Dame game right into playing Minnesota and then Penn State where we swept them, we played together as a team, we played hard,” Norris said. “We did the little details, winning face-offs. We got away from it a bit last week against Ohio State. For us to win games we really have to come together as a team and finish well.”
For Norris however, he believes that finding consistency in his game is something that is going to be vital moving forward.
“I think the biggest thing is just consistency,” Norris said. “The higher the level of hockey, the more consistent you have to be. Eventually, my goal is to play in the NHL. To achieve that goal, you have to be consistent. The guys who are more consistent have a better career. That’s what I’m trying to do here, is become more consistent.”