What's buzzing:

Buzzing The Net

Seth Jones embraces chance to be first black player to be NHL’s No. 1 pick

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

View photo

.

Seth Jones (right) has 17 points in 24 games for Portland (Getty Images)

It is illuminating to hear what the Portland Winterhawks' Seth Jones thinks about likely being the highest-drafted black player in NHL history.

The colour of a player's skin might not garner comment in the workaday reality of major junior hockey, especially when people are trying to be sensitive. Hockey is also, at long last, starting to resemble the general population of North America, where black, brown and Asian players are no longer novel although still rare. But Jon-Paul Morosi went into the topic — if Seth Jones becomes the first black player selected first overall, what would it mean — it was a compelling read.

Jones, 18, is considered the Western Hockey League's best NHL draft prospect. It was noteworthy that Jones told Morosi he has "never really been into the whole race thing" but accepts the mantle that's been placed upon him by, well, society and the sports media.

From Morosi:

Even if he isn't the No. 1 pick, Jones is likely to surpass Evander Kane (fourth overall, 2009) as the highest-picked black player selected in the NHL Draft. To the extent that any 18-year-old could, Jones has an appreciation for the responsibility — and opportunity — that would come with that status.

"I grew up with a white mom and a black dad, and I've never really been into the whole race thing," Jones said in a recent interview. "But hearing that — that's awesome. That's a privilege and an honor. I know African Americans don't play hockey too much. Maybe this would get a couple more kids into it here and there.

"I grew up in a family where race didn't matter, but that would be a great thing. That'd be awesome, for me to be that guy who little kids say, 'If he can do it, I can do it.' That's an honor, to be honest with you." (FOX Sports)

That is the argument, if one family takes up hockey who would otherwise not have after seeing Seth Jones does it, then it would be worth it. At the same time, it should not be overlooked that's not how he necessarily sees himself.

It is about having people who blaze a trail. Maybe it's a straight-line view but would a Buffalo Sabres prospect Kevin Sundher, who is of South Asian descent, have played if not for previous Indian players such as Robin Bawa, Ajay Baines and Manny Malhotra? Reaching back about 35 years, would Tony McKegney, who was one of the very few black NHL players in the 1980s, had played if Willie O'Ree hadn't made it to the NHL a generation earlier?

Morosi sought out Hockey Night In Canada analyst Kevin Weekes, who sponsored the Skillz Hockey charity in Toronto that has helped several black Canadian players advance. Few probably had a parent who could ask Joe Sakic on where to sign up for skating lessons, but as Weekes noted, that's really not important.

"If Seth is able to go No. 1, or even No. 2, it would be such a huge turning point for so many people," Weekes said. "Not only black people or visible minorities, but people in general. That's what North America is all about — having the opportunity. In hockey, it's about growing the game, taking it to the next level, making sure as many people as possible can enjoy it. That's where we're headed. We're not there yet. But we're going there."

Hey, someday people will play because the sport seems fun and open to them, notwithstanding the endlessly escalating expense. In the meantime, a role model who resonates still matters.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

View Comments (14)
  • Looking ahead to Game 4: Warriors at Rockets

    Looking ahead to Game 4: Warriors at Rockets

    The Warriors are a single win from the franchise's first NBA Finals in 40 years. Is there anything the Rockets can do to stop them? … More »

    Ball Don't Lie - 8 minutes ago
  • LEADING OFF: Hamilton back, Navy vet highlights Memorial Day

    LEADING OFF: Hamilton back, Navy vet highlights Memorial Day

    A look at what's happening all around the major leagues today: --- HAM IT UP Josh Hamilton returns to the majors, set to start in left field for the Rangers in their series opener at Cleveland. Traded by the Angels back to Texas in late April, the … More »

    AP - Sports - 22 minutes ago
  • The Astros, the Royals and different ways to win

    The Astros, the Royals and different ways to win

    During a 20-batter stretch in Sunday's victory at Detroit, every hitter for the Houston Astros either reached base or struck out. The Astros beat the Tigers 10-8 in that game, striking out 15 times but also hitting a pair of home runs and rallying … More »

    AP - Sports - 23 minutes ago
  • Gerrard and Lampard bid farewell with goals

    Gerrard and Lampard bid farewell with goals

    Steven Gerrard disconsolately trudged off an English Premier League pitch for the final time after his beloved Liverpool were battered 6-1 at Stoke City, their worst top-flight defeat since 1963. At least the 34-year-old, who leaves for Los Angeles … More »

    Reuters - 25 minutes ago
  • Manchester United decide against signing Falcao

    Manchester United decide against signing Falcao

    Manchester United will not be signing Colombia forward Radamel Falcao on a permanent basis, the Premier League club said on Sunday after the final game of the season. The 29-year-old will return to parent club Monaco, at least initially, after four … More »

    Reuters - 28 minutes ago