Every kid that has ever laced up his or her skates has had dreams of one day getting to play the game they love in the NHL. On April 2, 2017, Connor Jones, one of those little kids, got to make his dreams a reality when he skated onto the ice in Buffalo. I, along with many others who know Connor and his wonderful family, were constantly getting updates every time Connor’s line went onto the ice. To truly understand how spectacular this game was for Connor, I have to go back to the beginning of his journey in hockey.
Connor and his twin brother Kellen played for their father Terry Jones, Jr., on the Beaver Valley Nighthawks. “My dad was one of the best coaches I had in any league,” said Connor when asked to what it was like to play for his father.
Terry Jr. may have been harder on Connor and Kellen, but this just lead to great chemistry between the twins as they began to shine in the KIJHL (Kootenay International Junior Hockey Leage). The twins would eventually move up a division and play for the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL (British Columbia) before they both received scholarships to play for Quinnipiac University.
While, to some, changing and become members on new teams is hard, Connor believes these transitions were made easier for him because he had a great support system around him. “Kellen is my best friend and going through everything together made the transitions easier.” Connor and Kellen are so close in fact, they share everything, well, except for Kellen’s wedding ring.
The twins helped turn Quinnipiac from a no-name college in the hockey ranks to a national title runner-up in their four years there. After Connor and Kellen’s time in college, Quinnipiac had won more games than any other college hockey team in that time period. Connor believes they just had a good core group of guys on a team that just wanted to win games. Both Connor and Kellen were assistant captains as they helped lead Quinnipiac into prominence.
While Kellen was drafted in the 7th round by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2010 draft, Connor went undrafted. The twins were able to stay together for the most part as they played minor league hockey in the ECHL (East Coast) and AHL (American) respectively. Being an undrafted player made Connor even more embrace the grind even more and embrace the hard work it takes as a player to bring something different to the table.
Then in March, all of the hard work paid off. “In the hotel, my coach called me over and told me that I would be heading to Buffalo to play with the [New York] Islanders” Connor said about how he learned that he would be playing in his first game in the NHL. Right after his meeting, Connor told his brother Kellen the big news and then called his parents so that they could come to the game.
A few days later, Connor would describe walking into the Islanders locker room for the first time as “surreal”. When Kellen and Connor were kids, they made a deal, the first NHL game that they would go to would be when one of them was playing in it. A pretty cool first NHL game experience for both of them.
Connor would play with the fourth line at center for the Islanders and was able to help them beat the Sabers to keep their playoff hopes alive. Connor played his game and was able to be on the ice for two Islander goals. He had a couple of shots on goal, and even had a few bone crushing hits to round out his stats. A dream come true for the boy from Trail, BC.
Connor would play in four games this year for the Islanders as they finished up their season, narrowly missing the playoffs. Not the results Connor and the Islanders were hoping for, but there are lots of positives to look at as they enter the off season. Connor’s only goal, now that he has played in the NHL, is to stay there.
Photo Credit: Google images labeled for reuse