Jones Was A Portland Hockey Legend
A glowing piece of Portland’s long hockey legacy was lost recently when Art Jones died on Feb. 3 at the age of 86. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Portland Buckaroos were the scourge of the Western Hockey League – it was a minor pro loop back then, and not the current junior WHL in which the Portland Winterhawks play – Jones was the driving force who carried them to the top.
Jones was the captain, the face and the star of the Buckaroos. He played all for the team all 14 seasons that the Buckaroos skated in Portland, from the 1960-61 campaign through the 1973-74 season.
There wasn’t a more solid play in the Vegas sports gambling odds than wagering on Jones to be the top scorer in the WHL. He led the league in points six times, including five seasons in a row from 1967-68 through 1971-72. He also topped the WHL in assists four seasons in succession from 1968-69 through 1971-72.
“Art Jones”is Public Domain
“Every winger wanted to play with Art Jones,” former teammate Len Ronson told the Portland Tribune. “He was so good at getting you the puck. If you couldn’t score 40 or 50 goals with Art, something was wrong.”
Six times, Jones exceeded the 100-point plateau in a season for Portland. His 127-point campaign in 1969-70 will stand forever as the single-season point standard for the WHL, which folded following that 1973-74 campaign.
Keeping Up With Jones
The honors that were earned by Jones during his Portland days were many. Twice he won the Leader Cup as the WHL MVP.
Jones, a center, played 977 games for the Buckaroos. He is the all-time WHL goal-scoring leader with 587, 492 of which he potted for Portland. He added 865 assists to those goal-scoring exploits to finish with 1,357 points and rate as the Buckaroos’ all-time scoring leader.
His 1.71 points per game average in 1969-70 is a WHL single-season record. In 1971-72, Jones collected points in 27 consecutive games, also a league record. His 12 seasons of 30-or-more goals are another league mark. Twice – on December 18, 1971 against the Seattle Totems and Feb. 19, 1972 while again facing the Totems, Jones dished out four assists in a period. That’s a league record he shares with five other players.
“You don’t even notice Jones on the ice,” former WHL coach Bud Poile once said of Jones. “Then you look at the scoresheet, and he’s the guy who beat you.”
Jones played in 140 playoff games, another WHL mark. His 59 goals, 90 assists and 149 points are all WHL career postseason standards. He passed out four assists during an April 9, 1969 playoff game against the San Diego Gulls to gain a share of the single-game postseason assist mark. In the 1961 playoffs, he set another standard by dishing out four game-winning assists.
From a team standpoint, Jones was part of three Lester Patrick Cup WHL championship clubs with the Buckaroos – in 1960-61, 1964-65 and 1970-71. Jones led the WHL playoffs with 8-10-18 numbers during their 1961 title run. He led the 1965 WHL playoffs with nine assists and the 1966 playoffs with 10 goals. Jones was also the top scorer in the 1968 playoffs (7-10-17) and led all players with nine assists and 14 points during the 1969 postseason.
He served as captain of the Buckaroos from 1963-64 through 1967-68 and again in 1969-70. Four times, Jones was named to the WHL First All-Star Team. On three other occasions, he earned Second Team All-Star recognition.
“Art Jones” is Public Domain
NHL Called Once
The NHL beckoned for Jones when he was selected by the Montreal Canadiens from the Buckaroos in the Inter-league draft on June 4, 1962. But Jones insisted the Canadiens had no plans for him.
“It was out of spite,” he told the Portland Tribune. Hal Laycoe was Portland’s coach. As a Boston Bruins defenseman, Laycoe engaged in a stick-swinging duel with Canadiens legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard late in the 1954-55 NHL season. As a result, Richard was suspended for the remainder of the NHL season and playoffs. The Canadiens lost the Stanley Cup final in seven games to the Detroit Red Wings.
Canadiens assistant GM Kenny Reardon as much as acknowledged what Jones believed. “Lets just say this one was for the Rocket,” Reardon said on the day Montreal drafted Jones.
Jones didn’t go to Montreal. In July, the Buckaroos purchased his contract from the Canadiens and he stayed in Portland.
He was named Portland Professional Athlete of the Year in 1971 and Hockey News Minor League Player of the Year for the 1970-71 season. Jones was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1984.