Let’s talk hockey.
More importantly than that, let’s talk about an unlikely local connection to the National Hockey League.
Most everyone in our area is familiar with Ronald Jones. Most likely, you’d remember him by his nickname, Popeye.
A native of Dresden, Tenn., a 75-mile drive from Cadiz, Popeye Jones is a Murray State University basketball legend who, after a stellar career with the Racers, played 12 seasons in the National Basketball Association.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that any child of Popeye’s would be gifted athletically. What might come as a shock, though, is that Seth, the second of Popeye’s three sons, is set to turn pro in a sport other than basketball.
Seth was 5 years old when his dad joined the Denver Nuggets in 1999. Seth developed an interest in hockey.
As fortune had it, the Nuggets shared an arena with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. One day, Popeye bumped into Avs great Joe Sakic and asked for his help in getting Seth involved in hockey.
Seth spent the next year taking ice skating lessons and began playing organized hockey at age 6.
Popeye’s basketball career path moved on to Washington and Dallas, but Seth continued to play and excel on the ice. Eventually, Seth was accepted into the United States National Team Development Program and went on to win a pair of U18 world titles as well as last year’s World Junior Ice Hockey Championship. He has developed into one of the best young defensemen on the planet.
On Sunday, Jones was selected fourth in the National Hockey League draft by the Nashville Predators.
Heading into the draft, many analysts suggested Jones could be the No. 1 pick. Many Preds supporters spent the pre-draft weeks noting that Nashville, perhaps the NHL’s best organization at developing young defensemen, didn’t need another blueliner (hockey speak for defensemen ... sorry).
For whatever reasons, the Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning – all presumably in need of help on defense – snapped up the best available offensive players with the first three picks.
Whether the Preds really wanted/needed Jones or just couldn’t pass up taking the best available player regardless of position is a debate for another time. One thing is known without a shadow of a doubt: Nashville selected a great hockey player with a bright future.
And to think, it all traces back to a tiny northwest Tennessee town and one of the best basketball players this side of Kentucky has ever known.
Justin McGill is the general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.