Brothers Caleb, Seth Jones meet for first time in NHL, in a special place for their family

DENVER — Ron “Popeye” Jones’ love for hockey began with an invitation from Mike Modano to a Dallas Stars game when Jones was playing for the Dallas Mavericks.

Having grown up in Tennessee, Jones knew nothing about hockey. He had played basketball, baseball and football as a kid. But from the moment Jones went to the Stars’ game, he was hooked.

And as Jones bounced around from NBA team to NBA team, his hockey fandom followed him, and his sons, Seth and Caleb, began watching the sport with him. Seth and Caleb were even interested in playing hockey. The problem was Jones wasn’t sure how to put them on a proper development track. Basketball? He could coach them himself. Hockey? He needed help.

So, he turned to the best hockey player he knew at the time: Joe Sakic. Jones was playing for the Denver Nuggets during the 1999-2000 season, and the Nuggets shared a weight room with the Colorado Avalanche. One day, Jones saw Sakic in the room and walked up to him.

“Honestly, I’m friends with Joe now, but Joe didn’t know me at the time,” Jones said Monday. “I asked Joe, I said, ‘I don’t know what I need to do — they want to play hockey.’ He looked at me. He looked down. He looked up. Joe’s a little guy. He said, ‘You got to teach them how to skate if they want to play hockey.’ I went home that night and told them, ‘Joe Sakic said if you want to play hockey, you got to learn to skate.’ Then they were all into taking skating lessons and learning the game.”

Roughly 25 years since Jones approached Sakic for that advice, Seth and Caleb took the ice for the first time in their NHL careers as opponents — Seth with the Chicago Blackhawks and Caleb with the Avalanche — and it just so happened to be in Denver with their father, who is now a Nuggets assistant coach, in attendance.

“I tell you what’s crazy about it even more: They started playing their youth hockey here in Colorado, and then I get to see them go against each other in Colorado,” Jones said.

So much had to go right for that to happen, too. First, Jones needed to have the night off and be in town. When the Avalanche are at home, it usually means the Nuggets are on the road. But the Avalanche’s and Nuggets’ schedules aligned, and the Nuggets didn’t have a game Monday and play at home Tuesday.

Second, Caleb needed to be playing. He has consistently been a healthy scratch and hadn’t been in the lineup since Jan. 15. But Monday morning, Caleb was told he would be in. Soon after, he texted his father with the news.

“I’m like, ‘What?’” Jones said.

Monday’s game sort of went how Jones expected, with the Avalanche easily defeating the Blackhawks 5-0, but it was never about the result, at least for him.

“Honestly, with them on separate teams, it’s never about, especially tonight, it’s not about who wins and who loses,” said Jones, who owns Blackhawks and Avalanche hats but decided to wear a Nuggets hat to be neutral. “We know who the better team is. It’s just to see if they’re playing the right way. Playing the game the right way, not making any mistakes, not giving up too many chances as defensemen, so I understand what their jobs should be and how they should play.”

Seth was disappointed with the Blackhawks’ effort amid a challenging season — the Blackhawks’ road losing streak extended to 22 games with the loss — but he still knew it was a special night for his family. Their mother, Amy Jones, was also present for the game.

“Just hasn’t worked out throughout our careers so far, even when he was in Edmonton and I was in Columbus,” Seth said of playing against Caleb. “Played together, which we never thought we would do, before we played against each other, which was crazy. He looked good tonight — think he got an apple, an assist on that (Zach) Parise goal. He’s enjoying himself. He’s hoping to obviously play in the playoffs and go in a deep run and see what that’s like. So, I’m happy for him.

“It was pretty cool (to have the whole family here), pretty cool. We don’t get that very often. My dad, I think the Nuggets are in town, so he was here. That’s only happened a few times in my career where we’ve been in the same city like that. It’s pretty special.”

Seth and Caleb played together on the Blackhawks for two seasons. Jones said his No. 1 memory was seeing Seth and Caleb play together at Madison Square Garden, his favorite arena.

Caleb Jones made his return to the Avalanche lineup Monday. (AAron Ontiveroz / Getty Images)

Even though basketball is Jones’ sport, he tries to encourage his sons and provide advice from his professional career when he can.

“As a father, as a cheerleader and a guy who has been through it, I see it on both sides,” Jones said. “To Caleb, I’m like, ‘Stay with it, stay with it, stay with it as best you can.’ Obviously, I was a journeyman in the NBA, so I understand him a little more than Seth. … To Seth, I say, ‘Keep grinding, keep grinding, keep grinding’ because obviously of where the Blackhawks are this year.”

When the three do get together, the conversation usually turns to the NBA anyway.

“It’s crazy,” Jones said. “They follow the NBA. When we have dinners, they’re always talking about it. I think they talk to me more about what’s going on in the NBA than what’s going on in the NHL, to be honest with you.”

Having played and coached for the Nuggets, the current defending NBA champions, Jones is often recognized in Denver. As he was standing in the concourse talking about his sons after the first intermission Monday, a fan approached him and mentioned Seth and Caleb and how much they enjoyed watching Jones as a player.

Jones once hoped his sons would take after him and become basketball players, but he started to lose hope when Seth was around 12 years old. It was evident where the path was taking his sons.

As for Jones’ skating ability, there is the one time he got on the ice.

“I tried one time (to skate),” Jones said. “I ain’t say I learned. I wanted to get out there. I think all fathers, they want to play sports with their kids, so I had a pair of CCM sized 15 skates made. I got a huge extension on the stick, did one lap, and I had much more appreciation for the game when I tried to go around and play one time.”

Since then, he has let Seth and Caleb represent the family on the ice.

(Top photo of Seth Jones: AAron Ontiveroz / Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top