Seth Jones, son of former NBA player and former Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones, and Darnell Nurse, nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, were both selected in the top seven picks of the 2013 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft, which took place on Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Jones was rumored to go as high as #1, and would have made history as the first ever African American to be selected with the first pick, but slipped to the fourth pick before he was snatched up by the Nashville Predators. When asked if he would hold a grudge against teams that passed on him, he responded “I’m competitive…you definitely want to prove them wrong.”
I spoke to Seth’s father Popeye after he was drafted. When I asked him about his nerves and those of his son’s as he slipped in the draft, the proud Dad said “I’m pretty sure that the nerves picked up.” Popeye continued, saying “I was more anxious myself just to know where he was going to go. Nashville is a terrific hockey city.”
Nurse was asked about Seth falling in the draft as well. “I felt pretty bad for him because he had all of those cameras in his face. I was like ‘please get them out of his face so he can just relax.’” Nurse continued speaking about his 2013 NHL Draft counterpart. “He’s very mature. Something like that isn’t going to affect him. He’s a hockey player.”
Nurse, meanwhile, was selected with the seventh overall pick by the Edmonton Oilers. When asked how he felt, after being selected, he said “Unbelieveable. Organizations like this when you are a kid you grow up dreaming of being a part of. I can’t wait to make my mark.”
He had about 35 family members and friends who came out to support him Sunday, including his father, who played in the Canadian Football League, and famous uncle. “My Dad probably stresses out a little more than me,” Nurse said of being selected. “I was just happy for my whole family,” Darnell said, as there were mock drafts that saw him being selected as low as 14th. “Being a Canadian kid I grew up watching all of the Canadian teams,” he said of his excitement of playing for Edmonton.
Nurse jokingly talked about his Uncle’s draft experience compared to his. “He went higher than me but I didn’t get booed,” referring to McNabb being jeered when selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1999 National Football League Draft with the second overall pick.
The National Hockey League has a roster of players that is more diverse than it is given credit for. In the 2013 NHL Draft, that diversity was on full display, with two African Americans selected in the top seven picks. With Seth Jones and Darnell Nurse, you have two kids who chose hockey over basketball and football, respectively, despite having professional fathers in those sports. Perhaps their love of hockey will create many more African American fans as well.