Welcome to the Official Site of the Philadelphia Flyers Official Facebook of the Philadelphia Flyers Official Twitter of the Philadelphia Flyers Official Instagram of the Philadelphia Flyers Official LinkedIn of the Philadelphia Flyers Official DeskSite of the Philadelphia Flyers Flyer Wire
  • RSS

The Improbable Career Path of Keith Jones

Thursday, 12.31.2009 / 11:18 AM ET / News
Share with your Friends

The Improbable Career Path of Keith Jones
The textbook definition of "improbable" is "not likely to happen."

Label Versus studio analyst and Flyers' color commentator Keith Jones the quintessential walking and talking -- and even writing -- definition of the word.

In the history of the NCAA and NHL, coupled with the fields of authoring and television/radio journalism, there are few players who can parallel the improbable course of events that has put the affable and loquacious Jones into the homes of hockey fans in Philadelphia and across North America.

Not to mention bookstores and libraries as co-author with ESPN SportsCenter anchorman John Buccigross of Jones's 2007 autobiography, "Jonesy: Put Your Head Down and Skate -- The Improbable Career of Keith Jones."
A young Keith Jones poses in his college hockey jersey of Western Michigan University. (NHL.com)

"It's been awesome," said Jones about his unique experiences to date. "I really have to pinch myself sometimes."

How awesome -- and improbable -- for the self-professed "chicken-wing, beer guy" before landing at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., in the fall of 1988?

"I was playing Junior B and C as a 16- and 17-year-old. I was 5-foot-8 and grew another three or four inches when I was 18. After one year of Junior B in Niagara Falls, I was recruited by Western Michigan. After my first visit I never bothered with any others. I never heard of Kalamazoo but it turned out to be a pretty nice town."

Before his first shift for the Broncos, Jones was plucked by the Capitals in the seventh round of the 1988 Entry Draft.

I think what [the Capitals] saw when I was 19 in Junior B was I went to the front of the net," said Jones about his prospective NHL stock. "I'd fall down but pick myself back up and played with a bit of an edge -- went after bigger guys. A lot of times I'd end up on the wrong side of it, but would keep going.

"I was a fan of the NHL, but never thought I'd be playing there. I'd go to Maple Leaf Gardens and watch games, but never dreamed of playing there."

Jones, from Brantford, Ontario, would keep on going for four years at Western Michigan, all the way to the CCHA's First All-Star Team his senior year of 1991-92.

The keys to that NCAA run -- and the following eight seasons with Washington, Colorado and Philadelphia?

"Conditioning," said Jones emphatically. "I was completely raw when I went to Western; never really lifted weights. I was a chicken-wing, beer guy. Everything from my toes to my head got stronger -- and bigger and better -- each year. The hockey sense was always there.

"I learned to play a different role each year at Western Michigan, all the way from a fourth-line guy to a first-line guy. Then when I started with Washington, I started all over again on the fourth line, but was able to contribute playing only 5-8 minutes a night. Like college, each year I got a little more responsibility. By the time I got to Colorado I was playing first and second line."

"We made it to Joe Louis once for the [CCHA] final four [in 1992]," reflected Jones about his college highlight, "and ended up losing the first and winning the consolation against Ferris State, 2-1. I scored late in the third for us to win. Then we were close, but weren't selected for the NCAA tournament."

Jones played 153 games for the Broncos, scoring 83 goals and 80 assists, setting the stage for that improbable professional career run.

The NHL stage would include 491 games with the aforementioned ‘Caps, Avs and Flyers (he now makes Philadelphia home) with 117 goals and 141 assists between 1992-93 and his retirement in November of 2000.

"Dale Hunter for sure at Washington," said Jones about the most influential person during his playing career. "He was my linemate; taught me how to play the game and prepare for the game, how to contribute in any way possible to get the team to victory, how to be a good teammate."

Jones' best season was 1996-97 when he went 23-20-43 in 67 games for Colorado.

There has been no one "best" season for Jones since retirement; each one seems to just get better, despite a few speed bumps along the way. 

"I retired abruptly in November 2000 because of on-going knee problems," said Jones. "Got a call shortly after from ESPN wondering if I wanted to do some work for them on the 'NHL Tonight' segment. Of course I jumped at the opportunity thinking it would transcend over to the TV side. It didn't work that way, I can tell you. I was awful when I started -- out of place and uncomfortable. I wondered if I could crawl back out on the ice and somehow squeak out a few more playing years after a few weeks of doing it.

"Mercifully, they brought me back for a few more shows. While I was doing that, I also started Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia doing post-game shows for the Flyers. The ESPN thing kind of went away. The Philly stuff continued and for about five or six years, I did post-game shows and some intermissions for the Flyers before TV color commentary. It was a real comfortable setting and I got my feet wet without the high pressure of talking to the world.

"I did radio in Philadelphia at the same time; mornings for free for a year and a half on 610 WIP. I still do radio twice a week to this day. That really was the biggest factor in allowing me to be ready when the doors opened.

Those doors included analyst duties on Versus and during TSN game intermissions -- and authoring with Buccigross.

"They're all different which makes it fresh," said Jones about his myriad of jobs. "I enjoy them all equal to be honest."

Jones' upbeat and down-to-earth profile is grounded, in large part, to his Ontario upbringing, and from the inspiration of a courageous young girl whose foundation receives all of Jones' book profits.

"Alex's Lemonade Stand" is a foundation for kids with childhood cancer," said Jones about the recipient of his generosity. "Alex Scott was a little girl in the Philadelphia that started a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer, when she was fighting the disease herself. She lost her battle about five years ago but her cause still goes on today. I did not know her but followed her battle and have since gotten to know her parents.

"I got a call from John Buccigross, who was a friend of mine. He asked if he could write a book about me. I said, 'Yeah, sure,' thinking that nothing would ever come of it. It was very difficult; really hard to do. It has some good insights into life in the National Hockey League. About being traded and how that changes your life in the drop of a dime; the responsibilities of the professional athlete. It's a positive read for the most part."

Most reader reviews support that, while referencing favorite parts.

Said one: "It's like Jonesy is sitting next to you, talking to you, warts and all showing. He's just a regular guy."

Another: "[Best part was] handling his own contract negotiations with GM David Poile and bringing the empty briefcase to the meetings. I kept thinking of the Animal House scene where one of the Delta's points to his briefcase and smiles before the student body hearing."

A third: "To me, the best was the touching story of his friend, John Poor, who died at a young age of a terrible illness. The chapter on Poor, who was buried wearing a Keith Jones' Washington Capitals jersey, put tears in my eyes."

Finally: "If you doubt what a good guy Jones must be, just check the cover and see where the proceeds of this book go."

Where does the winding -- and improbable -- career of Keith Jones go now?

"At some point," said Jones, "I would love to be part of the Flyers [management]. It's such a loyal organization. I can't speak enough about how they helped me in my life after hockey."

Short term, Jones will usher in the New Year at the Bridgestone 2010 NHL Winter Classic in Boston.

"For Versus, we're actually going out New Year's Eve," Jones said, "and doing a show from 11 to 12:30 in the morning at Fenway Park. We'll be there with the lights on, putting together a show with the NHL doing the House of Blues party with some musical groups. We'll send it over and come back to highlight the best players of the decade. I won't have a role in the actual production when NBC takes over. I'll just be a fan, sitting back and watching. I'm looking forward to that."

While enjoying the improbable run of Keith Jones.




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


C. Giroux 78 22 45 -8 67
W. Simmonds 81 32 28 -7 60
B. Schenn 80 26 33 3 59
J. Voracek 73 11 44 -5 55
S. Gostisbehere 64 17 29 8 46
S. Couturier 63 11 28 8 39
M. Raffl 82 13 18 9 31
M. Read 79 11 15 -5 26
M. Streit 62 6 17 -1 23
S. Laughton 71 7 14 -2 21
S. Mason 23 19 10 .918 2.51
M. Neuvirth 18 8 4 .924 2.27
Privacy Policy | AdChoices | California Privacy Rights | Contact Us | Advertise Employment | NHL.com Terms of Use

Philadelphiaflyers.com is the official Web site of the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia Flyers and philadelphiaflyers.com are trademarks of Philadelphia Flyers, L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Philadelphia Flyers, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.