When Seth Jones signed on with the WHL Portland Winterhawks to be trained in the alleged greatest junior hockey league in the world he was expecting to play in Edmonton long before May. “I was supposed to play in the world junior in Edmonton last year but I was injured in an exhibition game against the Russians in Red Deer before the tournament started,” said Jones on the eve of the WHL final here Thursday at the home of Nike where the Winterhawks practice facility is located. Due to the WHL’s warped schedule, not one fan watched the No. 1 draft age player in the world play in the entire province of Alberta this season. Despite the two teams having given the WHL a crackerjack final last year, the only time the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks met was in Portland. Tuesday in Rexall Place in Game 3 will be the first time the sensation of the season will skate in an NHL building where you’re sure to see him play next year with the Colorado Avalanche, who won the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery earlier this week. Hardly fair to the fans. Hardly fair to the Winterhawks, especially when seven of their players are from Alberta. At least Jones got to visit Calgary Wednesday to collect the trophy as the WHL Rookie of the Year. “First time in Calgary,” he said. But this won’t be the first time Edmonton fans, or at least shoppers at West Edmonton Mall, have seen him play. “I played in the Brick tournament when I was maybe 11. I remember the mall, the water park and everything. I had a great time.” While he was originally selected by the Everett Silvertips in the WHL bantam draft, Jones was acquired by the Winterhawks last May. He’d played the previous two years with the U.S. National Development program in Ann Arbour, Mich., and was debating between playing for the U of North Dakota or in the WHL. There wasn’t going to be a debate at all, because Jones had every intention of going to Everett when GM Doug Soetaert was sacked. Soetaert, many will remember, was an Edmonton Oil Kings (later New York Rangers) goaltender in the ‘70s before the team moved to Portland. “Doug flew to Dallas a couple of times and I really had good interactions with him,” said the Plano, Texas, product who first got started in hockey in Colorado when his dad, NBA star Popeye Jones, was playing for the Denver Nuggets.
Long route back to Edmonton for Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones
Edmonton Sun | May 4