Ottawa Senators assistant coach Bob Jones diagnosed with ALS

Bob Jones seen behind the bench at the Oshawa Generals' season home opener on September 27, 2015. Jones, now an Ottawa Senators assistant coach, has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Aaron Bell/OHL Images

OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators are rallying around assistant coach Bob Jones after his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis.

Jones was diagnosed in early January and told players and coaches on the Senators shortly afterwards. The team announced his diagnosis on Tuesday because Jones and his family want to raise awareness for ALS research.

"It makes us want to just leave it all out there because we think a loss or a bad game is the end of the world but, no, there's people in life that are going through way harder things," said captain Brady Tkachuk. "The fact that he wants to be here every step of the way and see all of us as a group and organization, accomplish our dreams, I think it 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. It's an honour."

Jones, 53, is currently in his fourth season as an assistant coach with the Senators after being appointed to head coach D.J. Smith’s staff on July 5, 2019. He joined the club while having previous experience in the American Hockey League and a decorated Ontario Hockey League coaching career spanning more than 20 seasons.

"I've known him for a long time. Players love him, his wife, his kids, all his friends," said Smith. "I know how many texts he's received and I've received about him today.

"He's just a guy that's cared about players for decades."

An off-season resident of Tecumseh, Ont., Jones and his wife, Paige, have two children, Blake and Brianna. The Jones family has asked that those considering contributions consider both the ALS Society of Canada and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“We have been working internally with Bob and his family as he takes on this challenge," said Dorion in a statement. "While Bob will continue with his coaching duties, 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.”

ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. It's often called Lou Gehrig's disease, after the Hall of Fame baseball player who was diagnosed with it in 1939.

Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow also has ALS. He was diagnosed with the disease in January 2020.

Smith said that Jones and Snow have commiserated over having ALS.

"I think it meant a lot to reach out to someone that has it," said Smith. "Unless someone's going through what you're going through it's really hard to listen to any advice.

"I don't know that, you know, I'm not in his shoes. But it (helps to talk to) somebody else in the hockey world that's gone through it, that went to work every day, that kept some mental sanity throughout this."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2023.

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