Every NHL player has been a rookie at some stage, and everyone has probably felt a bit stressed about their paychecks. Keith Jones, former NHLer and current NHL analyst on TV, definitely knows. Jones played 491 NHL games, scoring 258 points, but he was a late bloomer. Jones didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 24, and during those days, he wasn’t exactly rich.
So when he got his first signing bonus, he couldn’t contain himself.
”I got a signing bonus of 75 000. I’ve never really had a paycheck before,” he said on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast.
Jones said that if you’re a college student in Canada, they don’t take taxes out of your check. Therefore, Jones worked for the school board, cut grass, and drew around with a mower.
”I was in Brantford so Gretzky would drive by in his Mercedes and I’d be riding my lawnmower.”
When Jones got the money, he decided to spend it.
”I take the trainer in the hockey team with me to the car dealership. Like, ’I’m gonna get a fancy car because I want everybody to know that I’m gonna make it.’”
Jones purchased a bright red Mitsubishi 3000. But he didn’t stop there.
”I go to Vegas with my buddies, the first time I ever been to Vegas. We’re having this great time. I brought a few bucks with it from the signing bonus, whatever I had left.”
There was just one problem.
”I’m not thinking about taxes. So I spend the whole thing. I think I lost 30 grand in Vegas. That’s the first money I’ve ever had in my life and I spent it all.”
Due to not thinking of paying the tax, Keith Jones had to borrow money from his sister to even get to training camp in Washington. But it also forced Jones to give his absolute everything during camp to prove himself worthy of a spot in the Capitals.
”I showed up at training camp, my first day, I’m standing there and Michal Pivonka and Peter Bondra are there, and they go, ’Hey kid, can you grab me my sticks there?’ I thought it was a strange request.”
Jones grabbed the sticks for the two star players and didn’t think more about it. Jones ended up on the bench next to the two stars the following week when Bondra suddenly started laughing.
”He looked over at me and said, ’Remember when Pivo asked you to get his sticks? He thought you were the equipment guy.’”
Jones said he made 35 000 in the minors and 140 000 in the NHL. He’d just spent 75 000, so he needed a place on that team, and he was willing to do anything to get there.
”I’m looking around and I see that a tough guy was out of the lineup.”
He’d never fought before, but he had no choice but to try it.
”Darren Banks is playing for Boston. He’s trying out their … big tough guy. He’s skating around, I’m chirping at him, and he thinks I’m joking around. Steve Leach was on the Bruins at that time, and that was my first-ever fight. He punched me in the head hard, man, I’m like, ’I don’t know if this is going to work for me, but I gotta make this team. I need the money. I gotta pay back my sister.’
”So that’s the only reason that I ever started to fight, in my first year in the NHL.”