Back in September 2000, a couple weeks before training camp opened, Popeye Jones was traded to the Washington Wizards. His fifth team in five years. That’s the business, but it’s tough on guys with a family.
So Jones told his wife to setting in Colorado (he had played in Denver before) and he would go on to Washington.
At that time his son Seth was 5, the age when you start playing little league and soccer and all the youth organized sports. And in Colorado at the time, when the Avalanche had Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, hockey was the sport all the kids wanted to play. Including Seth.
Now Seth, 17, is projected as a top 3 pick in next year’s NHL draft.
Over at CSNWashington.com they have the story of how it all came together starting back in 2000 when Popeye asked for some advice.
“I ran into Joe Sakic down at the arena and I just asked him about the game,” Popeye said.
“He didn’t know who I was and I just kind of asked him for advice with my kids wanting to play hockey and he just looked at me and said ‘from the looks of things your kids are going to be huge. You just need to make sure that they can skate.’”
Popeye got Seth skating lessons and the kid kept climbing the youth ranks — dad was 6’8” 250 so you knew his son would have size (Seth is 6’4”, 205 at age 17). Sometimes big guys struggle to skate well, but Seth kept up, started to really shine and with that size got moved to defense.
“I just kept telling him that defense wins championships,” Popeye said. “Maybe that was the professional in me, but I told him that if you can stop the other teams from scoring then you’re going to win games. After that, he really took to the position.”
Popeye moved the family to Dallas in 2007 when he became a Mavericks assistant coach, but his son played for elite travel teams there. A couple years later he moved to Ann Arbor to be part of the U.S. National Development Team, this past spring he captained USA Hockey’s under-18 team to a gold medal at the World U18 Championships.
Now he could be a top pick in next spring’s NHL draft.
“I know that he’s at a young age, but he’s also really mature,” Popeye said. “I think one of the main lessons that I’ve taught him is to keep your head down, keep working hard, don’t get caught up in all the press clippings and all of that and I think he’s done a terrific job of doing that. He’s humble and very hard working.”