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A family affair for the Joneses

The son of a basketball player-turned-coach, Seth is making a name for himself in the NHL

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /

When it comes to athletes, many of them get their start learning the sport from a father or brother.

This is particularly true of the sons and daughters of athletes, who more times than not take up the sport of choice of their parent. For example, two current Blue Jackets - Sam Gagner and Nick Foligno - are the sons of former NHL players. 

Seth Jones is another Blue Jacket whose father was a professional athlete that spent his winters playing and coaching across North America.

Ronald "Popeye" Jones, however, did his work on the hardwood as a player in the NBA for 11 years and now as an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers. While a basketball fan, it was a different sport that called to the younger Jones.

As a child living in Denver, Colorado with his parents and two brothers, Seth and his family would go to Avalanche games. The Jones boys - Seth has an older brother, Justin, and younger brother, Caleb - fell in love with the speed and physicality of the hockey they were watching as the Avalanche were one of the NHL's elite teams in the late-1990s and early-2000s.

"(In hockey), you're always on your toes," Jones said. "When you're younger and you get to see all that, it's pretty exciting."

So Jones' father, who was playing with the Nuggets at the time, sought advice on how to start his sons in hockey. He consulted someone who worked in the same building he did: Avalanche superstar Joe Sakic.

As the story goes, Sakic advised Popeye to put his sons into skating classes before dropping them into hockey, so that's precisely what he did.

After skating lessons, the boys advanced into playing and, for them, it became about more than just having fun on the ice. Each of them realized hockey was something they really wanted to do, but figuring out the positions they each preferred would take a little bit of time.

Seth started as a center but moved to defense within the first year he was on a team. And though his family was moving between Colorado and Texas as his father's coaching career progressed, all three Jones boys got to practices, games and tournaments and were able to keep playing thanks to their mother, Amy.

"People find you and you find the best programs," Jones said. "Besides school and friends, everything I did year-round (involved) hockey. During the season, it was hockey. During the summer, I would have summer tournaments. I always found a way to be around the sport and that's how it's been my whole life."

Jones knew he loved the game, but at age 10 after he joined a team of boys two years his senior, he started to realize that he might be able to turn his passion into something more.

"That was the first year I played with older kids and developed a little bit more, and found out I could be pretty good at hockey," Jones said. "Then Colorado got a AAA organization for the first time and I played with them. We were pretty good - we got second at the national championships. That's when I knew I could learn a lot from the sport and play the sport."

To keep his development progressing, Jones knew he needed to take another step. When he got an invitation from the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) at age 14 - which would mean a move to Ann Arbor, Michigan - Jones promptly accepted because, as he says, "if you got the chance to go there, you should."

After incredible opportunities with the USNTDP and then World Junior tournaments, Jones spent one year with the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks. In the 2013 NHL Draft, he was selected No. 4 overall by the Nashville Predators, a moment he counts as one of the biggest of his life.

Three years later, Jones has doubled the list of professional athletes in his immediately family, and younger brother, Caleb, is on his way to completing the hat trick. He was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft and is currently playing for the Winterhawks.

Though they have common ground as a current and former professional athlete, Seth says he and his dad don't talk much shop. However, there is one thing that Jones carries with him from his father's career as he continues to add to his impressive resume.

"When (Dad) was coaching with the Mavericks, I got to go in a couple times a week for his practice days and see how everything worked," Jones said. "I learned how hard those players worked, I understood it was more than just playing.

"I saw Dirk Nowitzki, one of the hardest workers in the league. I saw how many extra reps he took before and after practice. That's something I'll never forget."


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