COLUMBUS -- Seth Jones enjoys answering fan mail, but the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman took it to a new level.
Jones, in New York to face the New York Rangers on Jan. 19, surprised Dominik Rivera, a player for Ice Hockey in Harlem. It left the 14-year-old nearly speechless.
"He was pretty quiet, but it was awesome to share that experience, to put a face behind that letter," Jones said.
The letter in question was one Rivera sent to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Jan. 31, 2019. In it, Rivera expressed his admiration for Jones: "He is someone that makes a real impact on the game. In my opinion he is an inspiration to many people. … That is why he is one of my favorite hockey players in the NHL."
The note was passed to Jones.
"It was pretty cool, and I was touched by it," he said. "It just kind of goes with Hockey in Harlem and trying to grow the game.
Jones, who is black, embraces the role of being an ambassador for people of color in a sport seeking more diversity but said, "In general I want to grow the game in all areas.
"Obviously, Dominik's letter tied in with Black History Month and Hockey is for Everyone. That's very important for me as well. Any kid that I can be a role model to, or they can look up to me in different ways, off the rink as well, that's obviously a plus and something that I want to continue to do."
Commissioner Bettman made a video inviting Dominik and his family to see the Rangers against the Blue Jackets, but there was no mention of meeting Jones.
But Jones surprised Dominik when he snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder when he was being interviewed about Jones being his role model.
"He was obviously in shock and didn't say too much," Jones said.
He made the experience memorable throughout the game.
"He was sitting along the glass, so there were a few times I hit my stick on the glass a couple times right in front of his face," Jones joked. "I tried to scare him a little bit. You could see his excitement watching the game up close."
Dominik received a Jones' signed No. 3 jersey and his stick used in defeating the Rangers 2-1.
"I told him hopefully one day he gets to play out there at MSG," said Jones, who was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury on Monday.
However, Jones was not sure if he was able to switch Dominik's allegiance from the Rangers.
"I hope he's a Blue Jackets fan," Jones said. "We'll see how much he's wearing my jersey in that stadium. He's a Seth Jones fan. That's obviously pretty cool for me."
Dominick's father, Raul Rivera, said he and him family will root for both.
"We'll always be Rangers fans," Raul Rivera said, "but we'll also be Seth Jones fans."