Comets Tales: Jones Adjusting to Solo Act
by Don LaibleApr 20, 2016
It may be the end of the season for most teams and players, but oddly enough, Comets forward Kellen Jones is still getting used to something new.
When you play hockey with anybody for 20 years, you are going to have chemistry. And when that teammate happens to be your twin brother, familiarity on the ice becomes that much more reliable.
After nine seasons of shooting, skating, and growing as athletes from Junior A to an elite collegiate program, and the past two seasons in the American Hockey League, Kellen and Connor Jones have, for the first time, taken their careers in different directions.
"Obviously, it's different for us," said the Comets version of the twins. "Together we're very familiar with what each of us can do with the puck, but, it is a nice change to be apart. We are developing as people."
From an outsider’s view, the Jones boys going solo this season could seem as no big deal. After living together for 25 years, the duo should be able to experience a little breathing room. However, when your entire career has evolved around having a partner/teammate to constantly lean on, breaking up could be hard to do - successfully.
Since arriving in Utica, after signing a PTO contract with the Comets on Mar. 3rd, Kellen remains focused. Impressing Travis Green and his coaching staff, making friends in the dressing room, and looking to succeed with more shifts, Jones seems too busy to look into his hockey rearview mirror. But, how can't he?
Four seasons at Quinnipiac University (2010-13), the Jones' were integral parts of a Bobcat program that took them to the biggest game in college hockey, the National Championship. Based in Hamden, CT, they experienced first-hand an intense ECAC rivalry with the Yale Bulldogs. With the two schools separated by a mere eight miles (Yale is located in New Haven), they met in the national championship game after having already played three times during the season. The twins alma mater bested their rival three times before falling short in the National Championship game.
From college, and before that with the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Jr. A hockey league, both Jones twins started their pro careers in the spring of 2014 as part of the Edmonton Oilers' system as Oklahoma City Barons, playing together is all they knew.
For Kellen Jones, setting up camp in Utica, is his third move this season. Beginning with the ECHL Missouri Mavericks, then on to the Bakersfield Condors, and now a Comet, Jones appears to be comfortable at being apart from his brother.
When you think of other hockey twins- from the Sedins in Vancouver, to others that have skated in the NHL - Henrik and Joel Lundquist, Peter and Chris Ferraro, and all the way back to the first set of twins in the league Rich and Ron Sutter (1983-84), inquiring minds have to wonder- how did they do it?
As twins, and as athletes, are the players automatically signed as a package deal? How do they stay together for so long?
"In juniors and university we came as a package deal," explained Jones. "Oklahoma City wanted both of us. “It's up to the teams; hockey is a business. If possible, it is nice for us to stay together."
As any family member will attest to, attending games of siblings playing for the same team makes the whole rooting situation that much easier. Jones tells of his separation this season from his brother as not as difficult as it could have been.
"They would love for us to be together," Jones tells of his brother Connor, currently with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. "For our mom and dad, and grandparents, it's tougher for them to travel, to see us both play. At least we are both on the east coast."
Home base for the Jones' is Montrose, BC. Coming into training camp this past fall, Kellen and Connor had plans on keeping their consecutive season-as-teammates streak intact with Bridgeport. However, plans changed as Connor made the team, and Kellen was dispatched to Missouri.
"Once I knew we weren't going to be together, I had to do what all my teammates go through,” said Kellen. “Making new friends; having chemistry with new teammates. It was a little bit of change for me.”
Learning for the first time that hockey success can come as a solo act, Kellen Jones has no difficulty in describing the difference between himself and his twin.
"Connor is more on the edge, on the ice. He has a mean streak in him; elbows up. After a while, I think it is easy to tell us apart," stated Kellen.
Although playing for two different teams in the same conference, the Jones boys remain closely connected. Crediting technology for their connection, Kellen tells of texting, calling, and FaceTime-ing with Connor.
"We talk everyday,” told Kellen. “When I don’t have a game I'm watching or listening to his (game). The same goes for Connor.”
Moving from team to team, aside from the physical and financial adjustments, can be taxing on becoming a new teammate. For Jones, he has dished only positive vibes since joining the Comets. A "treat", is how Kellen labels his settling in at The AUD. Coming in on a PTO, Jones feels as if he's been skating in Utica for far longer than the weeks that he has been in town.
Going from being part of a hockey duo to branching off on his own, the ongoing process remains less painful than perhaps anticipated.