Seth Jones | Hockey PlayerBlack people and hockey players aren’t usually synonymous. Meet the teen that’s about to shake the ice up. —MATT CAPUTO
ALTHOUGH IT’S TELEVISED, the National Hockey League draft is never widely viewed—even by die-hard fans. It’s a long process, and for many of the players it will be the closest they’ll ever get to skating in “the show.” This year, though, the event would prove more colorful as the Nashville Predators used the 4th overall pick on 18-year-old prospect Seth Jones—son of former NBA forward Popeye Jones—making him the highest-drafted black hockey player since the league began drafting in 1963.
For Jones, there’s an opportunity to live his young life’s dream making history in a sport long dominated by Caucasians. Although today’s league has several black players, the heady defenseman is the first African-American rookie considered by scouts as NHL-ready. That might be because Seth’s father was feeding his son pro hockey advice before Seth could skate. “My kids really started getting into hockey, and I saw [NHL great] Joe Sakic working out and asked him what I should do for them,” says the elder Jones. “He said that because of my size I should make sure my kids could skate.”
And skate Seth did. As a kid, he never played any other sport. His focus was on hockey. Growing up both in Colorado and Texas, Seth played travel hockey, quickly advancing to the U.S. hockey pyramid. Now, though not ignorant to his ethnicity, Seth's attention is on the goodwill that him making history will spread: “My mom’s white and my dad is black—I understand where people are coming from with stereotypes, like I should’ve played basketball or football, but I know [being an black drafted by the NHL] is a big deal. I hope I can encourage other African-American kids to play the sport.”