Jones could be the first Black player ever taken No. 1 in the NHL draft

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“There’s never been one racial thing that happened to him,” Popeye said. “I think his teammates always accepted him for Seth Jones the hockey player, the great teammate, the great team player. He never put himself above anybody. They’ve always accepted him for who he was and never looked at race.”

They’ve been awed looking at his career arc, though.

He blossomed when he was still in elementary school and played in Pee Wee tournaments in Quebec City at 10 years old. The tournaments, however, were meant for kids 11 and 12. And he has won three gold medals in international play, including this year at the World Junior Ice Hockey championship. So, he’s already seasoned, globally, as a competitor.

Jones played two seasons in Toronto and was stopped in arenas each time he watched Seth play.

“They’d say, ‘What are you doing in the hockey rink? What’s your kid doing out here playing hockey,'” Popeye said. “‘Why aren’t you at the gym playing basketball?'”

Jones, who averaged a modest 7.0 points over an 11-year career, realized early on that getting Seth to follow in his sneakers was a lost cause. Sure, little Seth tagged along with dad to the gym and they’d bond watching the NBA finals together. But those 1-on-1 father-son games in the driveway never caught steam and Seth did not play organized basketball growing up. He simply had no desire, because hockey was his passion.

“That was all the motivation that I had,” Seth said.

With Popeye on the road, Seth’s mother, Amy, steered her son down the right path from home.

“Mom taught me everything from how to be a young man, to a handshake, eye contact, all sorts of things,” Seth said. “She just wanted me to be respectful.”

Seth spent more time with his dad when the latter was an assistant coach for a few seasons in Dallas. Seth broadened his worth ethic by watching how tirelessly players like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry prepared for every practice and game all season.

“You can tell anyone how to be a pro,” Popeye said. “But until they see it with their own eyes, it’s put a whole new light about what it really takes.”

Lesson learned. Now it’s Seth’s turn to take all he’s learned and show a team like Colorado he’s ready to make an impact next season.

“It’s a special category to be put in. Colorado would be special,” Seth said, “but at the end of the day, my goal is play in the NHL.”

That goal is about to be met.

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