Northern Michigan’s Mitch Jones temporarily trades in ice for turf

MARQUETTE – Junior goaltender Jared Coreau isn’t the only underclassman on the Northern Michigan University hockey team jumping into the world of professional sports this spring.

Sophomore Mitch Jones is turning pro as well, but unlike Coreau, the Wildcats’ defenseman doesn’t have to give up his NCAA eligibility – in hockey that is.

That’s because Jones isn’t heading to the AHL or NHL, but for the National Lacrosse League where he could make his debut at 6 p.m. EDT tonight for the Washington Stealth against the Minnesota Swarm at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The NCAA’s sport specific rules on amateurism allow student-athletes to turn pro in one sport, but remain an amateur in another.

So while Jones can never transfer out of NMU to play lacrosse for a Duke or John Hopkins, he can return to Marquette in the fall and still lineup on the blue line for the Wildcats hockey program.

“I’m excited,” said the Delta, British Columbia native about the start of his pro lacrosse career. “I got to travel out to Rochester (New York) during (the NMU) bye week to meet a lot of the guys. It’s a Washington-state based team so there’s a lot of B.C. guys I’m familiar with as well.”

The NLL is a professional indoor lacrosse league that features six teams in the United States and three in Canada with six of the franchises – like the Swarm – playing in NHL arenas. The regular season runs from the beginning of January through the middle of April.

Jones was selected this fall by the Stealth in the third round, No. 21 overall, of the 2012 draft after amassing over 100 goals and 200 assists in 70 games as a forward for three years in the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League.

He signed a rookie deal with the Stealth shortly after that, according to Jones, pays just under $10,000 for a playing in a full 16-game season.

Jones will only see a fraction of that money since he has been on the Stealth’s hold out list up until this weekend while bouncing between defenseman and forward with the NMU hockey team.

Still, it’s not a bad part-time job for a 21-year-old college kid.

“I’m not going to be getting rich, but it beats a summer job for sure,” Jones said.

“I’ve been working hard since our (hockey) season ended. I’ve got the stick throwing. It’s like riding a bike. You pick it up pretty quick. I’ve been doing it since I’ve been six years old.”

Jones could potentially play in five regular-season games plus the postseason for Washington, which is on a three-game winning streak and atop the NLL’s Western Division at 7-4.

Jones will remain in Marquette during the week taking classes, working out and skating once or twice a week. Then on Fridays, Jones will get on a plane and fly to Everett, Wash., or where ever the team is playing, to get in a practice and then a game.

The Stealth are also at Calgary on April 6 with home contests yet against Calgary on March 30, Buffalo on April 13 and Philadelphia on April 20.

“(The Stealth) are on a pretty good roll right now. It’s a good time to be joining I think,” Jones said.

“I’m a rookie in the league. I need to establish myself, don’t outdo myself and just play like I know how I can play. I know I can be a contributor and help make a winner in Washington.”

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is mwellens@miningjournal.net