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MOM, DON’T READ THIS

Feb 27 2019
Photo by
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Photo by
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Seth Jones
Columbus Blue Jackets
Feb 27 2019
M

y mom is going to probably kill me for this story.

See, whenever people talk about me, they always talk about my dad.

“Popeye Jones’s son is in the NHL now!”

You’ve probably read that story 100 times. But honestly, the real character in our family is my mom. She’s … something else. Even now, when I’m playing in the NHL, she’ll be texting me during my games. Not after the game ― during the game ― like ….

New Message: Mom
“SHOOT THE PUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!”

New Message: Mom
“Seth! Skate! USE YOUR LEGS!!!!! SKAAAAAAAAAATEEEEEE!”

New Message: Mom
(Sweating / Concerned emoji)

I don’t know if she thinks that I come back and check my phone during intermission or what. But she’ll be blowing me up if I’m not playing well. I think maybe that’s just the way she copes with the stress. The funny part is that when my two brothers and I were growing up, she didn’t know anything about hockey. But my dad was playing for the Nuggets, so we were in Colorado right when the Avalanche–Red Wings rivalry was so sick.

For me, hockey was everything from Day One. But most stories about me talk about how I loved the Avalanche, which isn’t exactly true. Don’t get me wrong, they had unbelievable players — Sakic, Forsberg, Hejduk, Roy, Bourque. Just sick. Loaded. But the first time I saw the Wings and Nicklas Lidström play in person, that was it for me.

Lidström was my idol.

I loved everything about his game. He was so positionally sound that he didn’t even have to throw big body checks. He’d still control the game completely.

Courtesy of Amy Jones

But growing up everybody wants you to be physical, right? Especially if you’re a bigger kid. That was never my game. And it was hilarious because my mom was just learning the sport, and she was reacting to everything around her. At the time, it was all about hard-nosed, physical defensemen, right?

So my mom tried to toughen me up.

She thought I was soft! I’m not even joking.

It started in the car on the way to the practice. She’d have her little playlist going — volume max, bass max. She’s gonna kill me for this … but this was like 2003, so she’d always play that J-Lo song, “Jenny from the Block.” I guess she thought that was super tough. She’d be kind of dancing around, slapping the steering wheel, singing all the words. And she’d be like, “You ready? YOU READY, BUDDY? You gonna hit somebody out there today?”

Oh man, she’s gonna read this. She’s going to be all over this. Players’ Tribune, you should talk to her about all this, because she’s going to say I’m lying.

Editor’s’ Note from The Players’ Tribune:
No problem, Seth. Please welcome your special guest editor, Amy Jones.

Special Guest Editor, Amy Jones
Oh my gosh!!!!!!! Seth! O.K., see, this is the problem. I can’t deny the J-Lo thing. That was definitely on the mixtape. I loved that song. But we had all kinds of music on there. Rod Stewart was definitely on there. DMX, 50 Cent. That Eminem song was on there, and that was when things got really serious in the car. You know that one? “You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it!” (I’m rapping now.) “Mom’s spaghetti!” That one.

Seth
And then when we got close to the rink, she would kind of be hitting me, pumping me up.

Amy
Seth!!!!!!! They’re going to call the police on me!

Seth
But not actually for real. It was like … she’d do that thing moms do, where she’d poke me in the ribs, like, “You gonna bring it today? You ready?!” And I’m like … nine years old. It was hilarious. I wanted to be Lidström, she wanted me to be Pronger.

Amy
Seth’s dad was gone a lot, playing in the NBA. So I think I was kind of trying to play the role of mom and dad at the same time. My boys loved hockey so much, and I just wanted to give them a chance. I remember … oh gosh, this is so embarrassing … once it started getting more physical on the ice, I’d have the boys in our living room, and we used to practice these little dirty tricks. Hahahaha! I’d have them standing in front of the TV with their sticks, like, “O.K., first, you have to make sure the referee isn’t looking. Then when he’s distracted, you give the bully a good hack right here in the back of the leg, where there’s no padding. “LIKE THIS!” WHACK!

Seriously. Amy’s Sneaky Tricks Camp. And we’d always have the Miracle on Ice movie playing on the TV in the background. Hahahaha! Oh my gosh. I was terrible!

Seth
I just wanted to be a hockey player. It’s all I ever wanted in life. I think I actually wrote my mom a note when I was like eight or nine years old, and it said, “Mom, I’m going to make it to the NHL.”

Amy
He wrote it on these four Post-it notes when he was eight. Oh my gosh, I’m going to cry. But they said, “Mom, I love you and I’m never going to leave you, even when I make the NHL.”

Seth
I just had this plan in my mind that it was going to happen. Whatever it took, I was going to do it, and I wanted to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Not in an arrogant way, but I kind of had that as my goal to push myself. And I think if you’re a competitive person, then you know what I mean. Plus, the Avalanche had the No. 1 pick. You can’t script it any better, right? It kind of felt like everything was lined up for me.

So, obviously, when it became clear that the Avalanche were going to take MacKinnon, I sort of understood it. But then I didn’t go at No. 2 or 3 either. Young me was sitting there, so nervous, so frustrated, so many different emotions. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life. Then Nashville was on the clock, and David Poile came up and said, “The Nashville Predators are proud to select … Seth Jones.”

Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty Images

Amy
We were mic’d up for the cameras the whole time, and we didn’t want to say anything or show any emotion. I couldn’t even look at Seth. This is so bad, but when he finally got selected, the first thing I said was, “Don’t worry, honey, everything’s gonna be O.K.!” Hahahaha! Right in front of the cameras. I don’t know why I said that. My son just went 4th overall in the NHL draft, right?! But it couldn’t have worked out better. I don’t think people understand how close that core was in Nashville or how strong the leadership group was that they had in place. Just the best guys ever in that locker room.

Seth
When we got to the hotel that night, I got a call from a random number. I picked up and it’s this deep voice. The guy’s like, “Congratulations, Seth. Welcome to Nashville. I’ll see you in a couple weeks.”

It was Shea Weber.

I’m a pretty calm guy usually, but I think I just kept repeating “Thank you” about 100 times. I hung up and I was like, “SHEA WEBER CALLED ME.”

The two and a half years I spent in Nashville were incredible. Just invaluable for a young defenseman. I mean, learning from Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm — it was awesome. And as a young guy in the NHL, you need it. There’s so many guys who can make you look absolutely ridiculous out there. I’ll never forget the first time we played against Detroit, and I got caught with Pavel Datsyuk coming down the wing on me, one-on-one.

For a split second, I was like, “That’s Pavel Datsyuk. Don’t let him make you look stupid.”

I kind of had the out-of-body moment. And then he almost broke my ankles. He pulled up, put it under my stick twice, then wheeled right around me. It was rough. I actually heard the crowd go, “Ohhhhhhhhh.”

Amy
Oh noooooooooo. Datsyuk. Yeah, I watched that clip about 100 times. You’re just like, My Poor Baby!!!

Seth
We were so close in that locker room, so when the trade went down in 2016 I was pretty devastated. Not going to lie. Obviously, I knew we were loaded on the blue line, and that it was a possibility, but when it actually happened … I don’t care who you are, it’s extremely tough to process.

It was kind of funny, in a way, because my mom is such a GM. She was telling me two weeks before it went down that I was the one. They had to trade me. It was the only thing that made sense. She was really breaking it down.

Amy
Oh, I knew it was him. If you looked at the contracts, Ellis had a great deal. Super cap-friendly. Josi had a great deal. To get what they needed at the time, the only thing that made sense was moving Seth.

Seth
I remember I had just sat down to dinner somewhere. Appetizers just came out. I get a call from David Poile — and when your GM is calling you at a certain hour, you know it’s not great. So I stepped outside, and he told me I’d been traded to Columbus. My heart sank. I came back into the restaurant, paid for my appetizers and drove straight home. I held it together for about an hour and then there were some tears, for sure. I broke down crying for about 10 minutes.

Amy
Shea called him, and that was super emotional. That locker room was abnormally close, the defensive core, in particular. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Seth
I had to be on a plane about two hours after I got the call. So I pull it together and pack my stuff, and as soon as I get off the plane in Columbus, I see this guy sitting in the lounge waiting for his flight.

I’m like, Is that…? No.

It’s Ryan Johansen, the guy going the other way in the deal. Just sitting there with his headphones on, chilling.

We kind of locked eyes and just started cracking up. All you can do is laugh at that point. I think I just said, “You’re gonna love it there.”

My first game in Columbus, my mom was up in the stands watching warmups, and David Poile called her on the phone to wish us all the best. That just shows you what kind of guy he is, and what kind of organization it is in Nashville.

Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports

Amy
Because of my ex-husband, I’ve been around pro sports my entire adult life. I’ve seen so many trades over the years. And I can tell you that that’s just not done. The GM doesn’t call the mom. He calls the agent. When David called me, we were still going through the whirlwind of everything, and I was just so touched. And as you can imagine, I cried. Again.

Seth
I was more nervous on the first day in Columbus than the first day in Nashville. No question. Coach Torts is Coach Torts, right? What can I say? He’s not messing around. And I didn’t know any of the drills yet, so I was all over the place. That first half season was an adjustment, no question. And then the very last game of the year… oh man.

Panarin.

Panarin smoked me. He was still on the Blackhawks. They were a machine.

First shift. Eight seconds into the game. I tried to step on him in the neutral zone. He did a behind-the-back, no-look pass off the boards. Filthy. I fell down. He went down, dished it to Kane for the goal.

I’m like, O.K. Happens.

Next shift, they get a power play. Panarin buries a filthy one-time on my side of the ice.

Next shift, I give it away to Panarin at the blue line. Breakaway. 3–0.

Probably the worst period of my life. So I get to the locker room at intermission, and Torts walks in and he just goes, “Jones? I don’t know what just happened out there. But you’re sitting.”

He sat me the whole second period.

Amy
Oh my gosh, I love it!!!! See, I love coaches like that. If they’re not playing hard, sit them! I don’t care if it’s my son. I remember watching the game that night, and when he was on the bench, I was like, “Heck yeah! He needs it!” Is that bad? I really am the crazy hockey mom, I know. But I raised my kids to work hard and I believe in being held accountable.

Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports

Seth
I know I had a rough night whenever I turn on my phone after a game and her text just says, “Are you feeling O.K.?”

But those second and third seasons in Columbus, we really started to jell together. And when we got back into the playoffs in 2017, you could feel so much energy in the city. This season, we’re all in. It’s funny, I probably shouldn’t say this … I should probably say the boring thing here … but early in the season, all people were asking about was Bob and Panarin and free agency.

We kind of avoided the topic. Not just with the media. In the room, too. But then a few months into the season, we finally all came together and addressed the elephant in the room. And then we started just having fun with it.

I mean, what are you going to do? You don’t know what’s going to happen in this business. Guys will literally go up to Bob during practice like, “So where you going next year, man?”

(You know you want to stay, Bob.)

Amy
Bob and Bread! (Seth doesn’t like it when I call the guys by their nicknames.) You know you guys want to stay!

Seth
Once we started having fun with it, and focusing on this season, we started winning.

Amy
I like this team! I know what I’m talking about, and I really like this team. That win against the Capitals the other night says a lot about what they’re capable of. And, oh my gosh, I was so pumped. Tom Wilson was pushing Artemi, and Seth went right over and got in his face. I was SCREAMING. I was like, “YES! GET HIM, SETH! DON’T LET HIM MESS WITH ARTEMI!”

I’m too much, I know.

Seth
I think this stuff must run in our blood, because I’m pretty laid back, but when my younger brother, Caleb, got called up to the Oilers this season, I was an emotional wreck. I was at home on the couch watching him on Center Ice, and from the very first shift, I was about to grab my phone and text him, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? PLAY YOUR GAME!!!!!!!”

It was scary. It was just like my mom. I had to restrain myself. I waited until after the game was over, and then I sent him the laundry list of all the little things he did wrong.

Amy
I don’t know how this is even possible, but my nerves were even more shot watching Caleb. That’s my baby. He was the little boy who would shoot straight out of bed at five in the morning to wake me up to take him to practice. He was the little boy who used to recite the full Herb Brooks speech from Miracle in the car on the way to tournaments. With Seth, it always seemed destined to happen. But with Caleb … well, to have two boys make it to the NHL …. it’s not just about them as players, it’s about who they are as people. I have three boys, and when they were kids, I always hoped I was giving them what they needed. To be good men, you know? Oh my gosh, I’m going to start crying again!

Seth
The only thing is, I’m 24 now, right? And still, every time we go on the West Coast road trip, my mom ends up finding her way out there. Funny how that works. Always when we’re in Los Angeles. Never when we’re up north. She’s always busy during the Edmonton trip, somehow. Last season, we had the day off in L.A., and so I had a whole dinner planned with my teammates.

Courtesy of Seth Jones

Amy
Noooooooooo. He’s going to tell this story. O.K., see the thing is … I need to fact-check this one.

Seth
So we have a reservation at Catch in West Hollywood at 9 p.m. All the guys. Team bonding. Night off. Let’s go.

My mom has a reservation at Nobu in Malibu with her friends. This is key information. Very far away. In Malibu. At 6 p.m. Rookie mistake by my mom. So fast-forward a bit. We’re all at dinner, having a great time. All of a sudden, this party of like five or six women comes walking in, and I think someone else spotted them before me. They’re like, “MS. JONES?!”

I turn, it’s my mom and all her friends. Sitting — I’m not joking — directly across from us. Two feet away. Not even. One foot away.

Amy
O.K, wait! Wait! In my defense, this was not the plan. I would never do this, I swear. We couldn’t get to Malibu in time because of all the traffic. I agree, rookie mistake by me. But then my friend made the reservation at Catch without me knowing. I’m like, “Oh my god, we can’t go there! Seth is going to be there!” So I text Seth: “I’M SO SORRY! BUT IT’S A HUGE PLACE. YOU WON’T SEE ME! I’LL BE INVISIBLE!”

He said not to worry, and that he would make sure to come say hi. We get there, and the hostess is like, “Right this way!” They put us right in the middle of the two tables with all the Blue Jackets! Ahhhh! I could have died. If you could have seen his face … priceless!

Seth
The guys thought this was the funniest thing in the world. I got destroyed. I was trapped. You know when you’re getting chirped so bad, and there’s nothing you can do, so you just sit there and take it? I had to turtle.

Nick Foligno had the best time with it. He sent my mom’s table a bottle of champagne. He was loving it.

Amy
It was Dom Pérignon! Can you believe that? That was so sweet. I know Seth was dying the whole time, but that was so much fun, to see him in that environment, with all his buddies. I don’t really get to see that side of him, you know? To me, he’s still my little boy. He probably doesn’t know this, and he’ll kill me for saying it, but you know those Post-it notes he wrote me when he was eight years old?

“Mom, I love you and I’m never going to leave you, even when I make the NHL.”

I still have those notes in my nightstand, right next to my bed.

Seth Jones
Columbus Blue Jackets