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Hockey Draft Breaks Color Barrier

Portland’s Seth Jones part of changing face of sport

7/3/2013, 10:44 a.m.
Seth Jones, a defenseman for the Portland Winterhawks and an 18-year-old from Aloha High School, pulls on a Nashville Predators sweater after being chosen 4th overall in the first round of the NHL hockey draft, Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Newark, N.J. A.P. Photo

Portland Winterhawks defenseman and Aloha High School graduate Seth Jones received the highest draft pick ever for an African American in pro hockey on Sunday.

Jones, 18, was selected No. 4 by the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League. Leading up to the draft there was speculation that Jones would be the No. 1 pick. While he did slip, he still made history as being the first African-American as a top-five choice.

Darnell Nurse, another black player, went No. 7 to the Edmonton Oilers. Jones and Nurse will be part of the changing face of pro hockey where 94 percent of the players are white.

Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones seemed happy in his bright yellow Nashville jersey, and will be able to learn about playing NHL defense from new teammate Shea Weber.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about going to those teams, but at the same time I'm excited to be a Predator, and obviously Shea Weber is there," Seth Jones said Sunday about slipping a few spots.

Popeye Jones is friends with one of the Predators scouts, and he said he was told that his son wouldn't fall past Nashville at No. 4.

Now Seth Jones has something else to prove, beyond the usual drive draft picks have to show that they belong in the NHL.

"I think professional athletes or athletes in general are always looking for something to motivate them because there is always going to be dog days where you may not want to lift or do extra crunches," Popeye Jones said. "But you will look at this and say, 'I got drafted fourth. Maybe I need to get to the weight room again and try to prove guys wrong that I should've went first.'

"You are also looking for that extra motivation."

Popeye Jones, drafted by the NBA's Houston Rockets in 1992 and traded to Dallas, knows what NHL team he will be throwing his support to.

"There is no disappointment in going to Nashville. It is such a great franchise," he said. "It is my home state. I've got to get my Preds hat."

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.