NHL

Senators assistant coach Jones diagnosed with ALS

Ottawa Senators assistant coach Bob Jones has been diagnosed with ALS.

“Bob and his family’s wishes are to take the brave step of going public with his condition in an effort to promote ALS awareness as he battles this disease,” Senators CEO Pierre Dorion said Tuesday.

Jones will continue his coaching duties and “he has the full support of the organization to take any time he needs away from the club during the season to concentrate on his health and his family,” Dorion said.

“The thoughts and wishes of the entire National Hockey League family are with Ottawa Senators assistant coach Bob Jones and his family,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We admire his courage in making his battle with ALS public, and we will support him and his family in this fight.”

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control.

“He’s had some issues earlier in the year and then got tested probably three weeks ago, maybe a month,” Senators coach DJ Smith said. “He was diagnosed but then would get a bunch of different tests from different people. He’s had three now and they’ve diagnosed him with ALS.

“It’s tough. I’ve been training with him for years at Winsdor (in the Ontario Hockey League). I’ve known him for a long time. Players love him. Right now, his wife, his kids, all his friends … he’s just a guy who has been worrying about players for decades. Terrible news and he wants to join for his mental health, joke with the guys and keep his spirits up instead of just going home and dealing with it. He has the freedom to to come and go, but at this point he’s on the rink and he’s handling it as best he can.”

Hockey Hall of Famer Borje Salming died on November 24, 2022 at the age of 71 after a short battle with ALS. He played 17 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings and had 787 points (150 goals, 637 assists) in 1,148 regular season games and 49 points (12 goals, 37 assists) in 81 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow has been battling ALS for the past three years. He and his family created the Weak Side Strong Challenge to help raise money for ALS research and treatment.

Snow presented the Norris Trophy, awarded to the best NHL defenseman, with his family at the 2022 NHL Awards to raise awareness of the progressive neuromuscular disease.

Jones is in his fourth season as a Senators assistant after being named to coach DJ Smith’s staff on July 5, 2019. The 53-year-old also coached for more than 20 years in the American Hockey League and OHL. He worked with Smith under coach Bob Boughner as Windsor won back-to-back OHL championships and the Memorial Cup in 2009 and 2010.

“He wants to raise awareness of the disease so there’s more help, there’s more science, there’s more cure, there’s more medicine,” Smith said. “There are all these things that can be improved and we all know that it takes funding.”

As a player, Jones was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the ninth round (No. 179) of the 1989 NHL Draft. As a defenseman, he played six seasons with Adirondack of the AHL, San Diego and Fort Wayne of the International Hockey League, and Muskegon and Saginaw of the Colonial Hockey League.

The Senators (20-23-3) host the New York Islanders on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN1, TVAS, MSGSN, ESPN+, SN NOW).

“It makes us want to just leave it all out there,” Capt Brady Tkachuk said. “We think a loss or a bad match is the end of the world, but there are people in life who go through much harder things. The fact that he wants to be here every step of the way and see us all as a group and an organization that fulfills our dreams, I think that says a lot about the person he is and how much he cares about this team and the players in the locker room. It just makes us want to find that extra level to get the job done in his honor.”

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