Seth Jones is the prize of the 2013 NHL Draft, and the top-rated player in Central Scouting’s final NHL Draft rankings. The Portland Winterhawks defenseman has everything you want in a top prospect: Size, physicality, two-way skill, a right-handed shot and the ability to log big minutes.
He’s also an African-American hockey star and the son of a former NBA player, which makes him immediately marketable in the U.S. in ways that other top draft prospects haven’t been.
Which is why Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports wants to be in the Seth Jones business.
The son of Nets assistant coach and former Nuggets player Popeye Jones is already repped by CAA, Roc Nation’s partner. But sources said Jay-Z’s organization wants to strike a deal to be involved in the star’s marketing and branding, reports The Post’s Kirsten Fleming. Jones would then benefit from both sides of the CAA and Roc Nation partnership.
“When Seth comes to the NHL draft [in Newark, NJ] in June, his family, agents at CAA and Roc Nation are going to have a powwow to see if he’ll sign with them,” a source said.
Don’t confuse this marketing deal with NHL player representation: It’ll be Pat Brisson negotiating some bonus-laden contract for Jones with whomever takes him first overall. (The draft lottery is Monday night.)
It’s a marketing deal, and a potentially blockbuster one at that for the NHL.
He’d be the first black player taken No. 1 overall in the National Hockey League, which isn’t exactly seen as a model of diversity for casual sports fans. It's something that has already caught the attention of non-hockey media.
On one hand, the Jones family understands why this is noteworthy. On the other hand, they point out that Seth comes from a mixed-race family. Popeye is African-American. Amy Jones (who is divorced from Popeye) is white.
“The way Amy and I always raised our boys, we told them they had the best of both worlds, they were black and white,’’ said Popeye Jones. “We never had any racial issues. … we’ve discussed this, and I think Amy and I know, and Seth knows, that he’s probably looked at more as an African-American player. That’s fine, he accepts that responsibility and understands he has a chance to help grow the game and hopefully bring more inner-city kids into the sport.’’
Seth Jones said being a black role model – if that’s what society wants him to be – “is a great thing. Like my dad said, race has never been an issue or a problem (for us) but it’s cool if you can be a role model for other kids who might go on to play hockey as well.’’
While Jones said he wants “people know me for the person I am, not my color,” that’s not always the way corporations looking to push product see it.
This is a sea-change moment for the NHL and its marketing – Tiger Woods-ian in its potential impact on American hockey, and especially if Jones is as good as advertised.
And if he hooks up with Jay-Z, no doubt he’ll be advertised. And probably meet Beyonce if he hasn't already. Man, the perks of being an NHL rookie ...
s/t Wayne in Tuskegee