Hockey Popeye Jones' son set to make father proud in NHL Draft
By chance, Ronald "Popeye" Jones bumped into Joe Sakic in the weight room of the arena in Denver way back when.
It shouldn't have been a big deal. After all, Jones' Denver Nuggets and Sakic's Colorado Avalanche shared the Pepsi Center.
Jones, a 6-foot-8 power forward who starred in college at Murray State, had more than casual conversation in mind for their first meeting almost 13 years ago, though. He told Sakic, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, that he had two young boys who wanted to play hockey and no clue how to help them.
"He looked at me all the way up and into my eyes," Jones said. "He saw how big I was. He said, 'He's going to be huge. Make sure he knows how to skate.'"
So Jones signed up his boys, including youngest, Seth, for skating lessons. Sakic's small piece of advice turned around one boy's direction. Now, it's Seth's turn to return the favor for an organization. The 18-year-old Jones has grown into one of the top prospects in hockey and is the consensus No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft later this month.
That pick belongs to the Avalanche — now led by Sakic, the team's former captain who was recently promoted to executive vice president of hockey operations.
"All the goals he's set as a hockey player," Popeye said, "he's been able to accomplish."
Based on talent and need, Jones shouldn't drop past the Avalanche. The 6-foot-4, 206-pound defenseman met with members of the Avalanche scouting team last month before moving on to the NHL Draft combine in Toronto.
He would become the first American picked No. 1 since Chicago's Patrick Kane in 2007 and seventh overall. In a sport where the majority percentage of players are white, it's that slice of history he would make as the first black selected No. 1 — topping Evander Kane, picked fourth 2009 — that means so much to both of them.
"I don't think about it too much," Seth said. "Hopefully, I can encourage young African-Americans to play hockey and try it when they're at a young age. It's definitely a white-dominated sport. But there are a lot more that are starting to play."
■ The Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the NHL's best defensive forward, and Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators was named the league's coach of the year. The Lady Byng trophy for the NHL's most sportsmanlike player went to Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis for the third time in four years.
Horse racing Velazquez rides 5,000th winner
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez reached 5,000 career victories Friday at Belmont Park. Velazquez, 41 years old, was 3-for-3 on the day, hitting the milestone with Galloping Giraffe, his final mount. He is the 28th rider to reach the plateau, with only victories in the U.S. and Canada counting in the total.
"Everybody says that when you get close to a big number you go into a slump. I started to believe it. 'Maybe this is why I'm going so slow!'" Velazquez said. "Everything was second and third, second and third. I was riding really good races and, unfortunately, was getting beat. Finally, it's over!"
He also guided San Pablo to a 3½ -length victory over Hymn Book in the $90,000 Criminal Type Stakes. Mucho Macho Man, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, was third.
Paynter wins in return to track
Paynter won the $63,866 feature at Hollywood Park by 4½ lengths Friday in his return to racing after a nearly 11-month layoff because of serious health issues. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, who had five winners on the card, Paynter ran 7 furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:21.86. It was his 4-year-old debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Paynter had been sidelined with laminitis and colitis since winning the $1 million Haskell Invitational last July 29 at New Jersey's Monmouth Park. He was second in last year's Belmont Stakes.
"He is just an incredible, phenomenal horse," Baffert said. "I can't believe he is back."
NASCAR Edwards, Busch on front row at Michigan
Carl Edwards topped Sprint Cup qualifying Friday with a lap of 202.452 mph at Michigan International Speedway.
"The new track is super fun to race on," Edwards said. "The pavement seems like it has aged more in a year than a lot of new track surfaces have, and hopefully we can keep developing a Goodyear tire and keep making it softer and softer to where it becomes the old Michigan here in a year or two. I think that is going to be awesome."
Kurt Busch was second in qualifying, followed by Kasey Kahne.
"It's just a good feeling — to be on the front row four times this year," Busch said. "So we're just going to keep rolling. To be second, that's qualifying, now we've just got to step into the race, and that's where we've got to close the deal."
UK's McDaniel qualifies for U.S. Publinx
University of Kentucky sophomore men's golfer Todd McDaniel advanced to the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship after winning his qualifier at the Lakeside Golf Course in Lexington on Wednesday. He shot 2-under par in the 36-hole event. The Clay County graduate will be one of 156 players in the field at the tournament at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va. on July 15-20. There are two days of stroke play that will trim the field to 64 golfers who advance to match play.
Chiefs add former Murray St. star Lane
The Kansas City Chiefs claimed defensive end Austen Lane off waivers from Jacksonville and released defensive tackle Daniel Muir. Lane, who starred at Murray State and was drafted in the fifth round in 2010, played in 28 games (including 17 starts) for the Jaguars.
■ The Buffalo Bills signed rookie quarterback EJ Manuel to a four-year contract worth $8.9 million on Friday. Manuel was selected 16th overall out of Florida State, and was the only quarterback selected in the first round. He is competing with veteran free-agent addition Kevin Kolb for the starting job.
■ Wide receiver Victor Cruz signed his $2.879 million tender with the New York Giants. Had the 26-year-old Cruz not signed before Monday, the Giants' offer could have been reduced to $630,000 for the 2013 season.
■ The New York Jets signed tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to a one-year deal after a solid performance during the team's three-day minicamp. Winslow, who turns 30 next month, played in just one game last season with New England before asking for his release.
Legends lose on Herrera's 7th-inning HR
Rosell Herrera's home run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning broke a 2-2 tie and the Asheville Tourists went on to defeat the visiting Lexington Legends 3-2 on Friday night. The Legends had taken a 2-0 lead on Mark Threlkeld's RBI double in the second and his solo homer in the fourth.
The last word
How much golf has University of Kentucky basketball recruit Karl Towns, the Cats' lone commitment for 2014 so far, been playing? Towns told the Herald-Leader's Ben Roberts:
"Enough that I could probably beat Charles Barkley."
When Karl Towns Sr. was asked if his son rides a cart when he plays golf, he said:
"Golfers don't use no carts. Karl walks 18, bro."