Black hockey players don’t seem to come around that often. When they do, generally they’re not American born. Professional hockey has an air of racism attached to it as we saw in this past season that began with a fan in New York throwing a banana on the ice as Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds (the only Black player on the team) was attempting a penalty shot and ended with an onslaught of racist tweets from Boston fans angry that a “nigger” ended their season after the Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward scored the game-winning goal in overtime to knock the Boston Bruins out of the playoffs.
On the flipside, the NBA is more than 80% Black and although its’ players are the most disliked by fans, they manage to find comfort and camaraderie in the league.
That’s what makes this story so compelling.
Seth Jones, a Black American, is the hottest under-18 hockey player in America right now. For the last two years he has played with the U.S. National Team Development Program. In 48 games with the Under-18 team, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman had six goals, 20 assists and only 18 penalty minutes. He also won his second straight gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in the Czech Republic this past April. Not only was he co-captain of that team, he had three goals and five assists in six games. Those eight points ranked him second among all defensemen at the tournament and second among all U.S. players.
But what you don’t realize about Seth until you read his bio is that he is the son of former NBA player and current Brooklyn Nets assistant coach, Popeye Jones.
Popeye played for several NBA teams during his career that spanned from 1993 through 2004, but it was the one season he spent in Denver that was the most crucial to Seth’s emergence. That season, former Colorado Avalanche great, Joe Sakic, introduced five-year-old Seth to hockey and the kid hasn’t looked back.
Despite Seth’s gaudy stats at the World Championships, he is the only player on the team to not commit to college. Although he could attend the University of North Dakota, he has opted to play for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League for one year and then go into the NHL draft at 18-years-old. Experts say he should dominate the young players in the WHL while gaining experience playing a lot of games.
Popeye may have brought Seth to the arena in Denver and helped him get started as a player, but if Seth hopes to be in the same arena with his father now, he’ll have to wait until Jay-Z buys the New Jersey Devils and moves them to Brooklyn, too.