This morning at 11am the Edmonton Oilers hopped on a plane and made a direct flight to Dallas. It's the start of a two-game road trip but it's also a homecoming.
There aren't many NHLers who were born in the Big D but you can count Caleb Jones as one of them. Jones was born June 6, 1997. The youngest son of Amy and Ronald Jones. His dad is better known as "Popeye" - a long-time NBA forward.
In fact, dad was a member of the Toronto Raptors at the time of Caleb's birth but had started the off-season when he was born. While Popeye was playing for a Canadian team, he had just finished three seasons in Dallas with the Mavericks. It was home for the Jones family then and still is to this day.
Keeping up with the Jones family isn't easy at all these days. They are spread out in five, sometimes six, cities and over two countries.
Let's start with dad who is an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers. Middle brother Seth calls Columbus home and works the blueline for the Blue Jackets. Mom Amy is still in Dallas. Older brother Justin is located in Nashville, and then there's Caleb. His first choice of location is Edmonton but he also spends time in Bakersfield.
It's a family spread out all over. It makes it pretty tough for Caleb to catch up with family or for family to watch him play in person. "No he won't be" was the answer Caleb provided when he was asked if dad would be out to watch him during a recent road game in Denver. "Unfortunately, with the NBA schedule," explained Jones, "crossing over at the same time as the NHL schedule, it's hard for him to watch me play."
Lately there have been a couple of different places to watch Caleb play. He's either been in Bakersfield with the Condors (14 games) or in Edmonton with the Oilers (13 games). At training camp, Jones was considered a possibility of making the team to start the season. When that didn't happen and he was called up for the first time, Jones was quite clear on how he was disappointed at the demotion but prepared to play his way back into the NHL.
When things don't go the way you want or expect, who do you turn to but family? "My brothers were a big help after I was sent to the AHL," explained the young d-man. "I would get texts from Seth to keep my head up and keep working towards my goal. Justin was also a source of support for me and of course my mom. She's always there for me."
Monday's game in Dallas will be his first at home against the Stars but it won't be the first time he's been that close to a Stars uniform. Caleb, before he played for the United States National Team Development Program, was part of the Dallas Stars minor midget program.
Now he's part of the Oilers program. The team will land in Dallas late in the afternoon. A short bus trip to the hotel and then Sunday night could be a dinner with friends or maybe a table for two with mom. Either way, Caleb is hoping for a happy homecoming as it can be tough keeping up with the Joneses.