The Jones Family's Deep and Rich History with Lacrosse

Jason and Mitch Jones as ball boys for the Salmonbellies in 1997. Photo courtesy the Jones family, article by Adam Levi for Inside Lacrosse.

Being born into the Jones family means that one day you will be a Salmonbelly.

Jason (35 years old), Mitch (31), and Ryan (25) Jones grew up in a house in North Delta that was 500 meters from the Fraser River, one of Canada’s most abundant salmon-filled rivers. It is fitting, albeit sheer coincidence, that the Jones home was full of the Salmonbellies. The New Westminster Salmonbellies, that is. 

Ryan Jones is the youngest of five Joneses that have played in the Western Lacrosse Association, and he is also the only one that has yet to play for the Salmonbellies in the WLA. He did, however, play for the Jr. A Salmonbellies. But the family’s ties to the Salmonbellies go much further back than Ryan’s playing days when he was suiting up for New West in the summer of 2018.

In 1985, the brothers' dad, Randy, and their uncle, Paul, began playing in the WLA for the Vancouver Burrards. A few years later, from 1992-96, Randy and Paul were teammates on the Salmonbellies. Paul won two Mann Cups with the team in 1989 and 1991. All in all, Paul played for the Salmonbellies from 1989-1996, while Randy played with them from 1992-1999.

Both of the elder Joneses were quite talented during their playing days, and Randy is still showing the lacrosse world what he can do, just now as a defensive coach of the WLA Salmonbellies.

In 2009, Jason Jones, the oldest of Randy’s three sons, made his WLA debut with the Burnaby Lakers. Since 2018, Jason has been a part of the 'Bellies. Four years after Jason introduced himself to British Columbia’s preeminent Sr. summer league, Mitch, Randy’s middle son, made his WLA debut with the Victoria Shamrocks. Since 2016, Mitch has been with the Salmonbellies. For those who may not know, Mitch is also one of the National Lacrosse League’s best players.

With all that being laid out, it should be no surprise that Randy’s sons have spent plenty of time at Queen’s Park Arena, home of the Salmonbellies, over the last few decades.

“Since my dad [and uncle] played for the Salmonbellies, we spent a lot of time at Queen’s Park Arena,” Mitch said. “Then, I watched my brother [Jason] all the way through Jr. and then the WLA. Now, it’s kind of a full circle getting to play against Ryan. Our whole family has spent a lot of time in arenas, especially WLA arenas in the summer, so it was neat to have us all in one spot for a night.”

If you’ve grown up in a lacrosse family that happened to have a backyard on the property, there’s a good chance that you spent more time outside of the house than inside of it. This couldn’t have been more true for Randy’s boys.

Their first arena was their fenced-in “box” at the back of their home. Fun was had, and learning was done, but roughhousing also found its way into the festivities. All’s fair in love and war, and with the Joneses, their love for each other was sometimes tested when it involved lacrosse.

“We definitely had some battles in the backyard, but I think that that’s where our competitiveness comes from,” Jason said. “We’ve always been competing against each other, but I’m their biggest advocate. I want both of them to exceed so bad. We’re definitely competitive in anything, lacrosse, ping pong, basketball or anything else.”

For Ryan, being the youngest sibling meant that he could learn from each of the family members that played lacrosse before him. The guidance he’s received from his father and brothers has been instrumental to his growth as a player, which is still ongoing.

Whether at the early youth levels, Jr. or even the WLA, Ryan has been a part of some young, less-experienced teams. That will often bring you face-to-face with losing more often than one would like, but, on the other side of the coin, those challenging times teach you many lessons, especially some tough lessons. Having that older, more experienced core around him in his family unit has given him tools to cope with and combat those challenges.

“Everything I learned about lacrosse was from those three,” Ryan said. “Even if it was just playing in the backyard, I took away everything I know about the game from my dad; even though he never coached me, he gave me pointers. Having two players as older brothers, you can learn a lot of things.”

The boys have come a long way since those backyard “box” sessions. They are now all in the WLA. Ryan was the last to be drafted - he was taken in the first round (7th overall) in the 2020 WLA Graduating Junior Draft by the Maple Ridge Burrards. Due to COVID-19, Ryan didn’t make his WLA debut until 2022, but once play started again, all of the Joneses were chomping at the bit to get back on the floor.

On June 30th, 2022, Ryan’s Burrards and Jason's and Mitch’s Salmonbellies (with Randy on the Salmonbellies bench) squared off in a Jones family battle. This was the first time that all three brothers were playing competitively on the same floor at the same time.

A solid third period by the Salmonbellies propelled Mitch, Jason and Randy to an 11-9 victory, but each of Randy’s sons played well. Mitch had three goals and two assists, including two third-period goals, Jason had three assists, and Ryan had one goal and two assists. It was an awesome moment for the three brothers.

“I remember last year that I didn’t even think about it until I stepped on the floor,” Ryan said. “It was definitely a cool moment because we’re so far apart in age, so we’ve never really had the chance to play with each other or against each other. It was probably one of the top three moments of my lacrosse career getting to be on the floor with both of them.”

It was a proud moment for dad to see all three of his sons out there competing in the WLA. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time that this would happen, but the fact that it actually did was very special. While Randy is happy to see all of his boys following in his footsteps, he’s more than happy to let other wise lacrosse minds coach his kids.

“I’m just happy they found something they like to do and that they’re sticking with it,” Randy said. “I coached some of them some of the time, and, besides Ryan, [Jason and Mitch] were ball boys when I was with the Salmonbellies.”

“It’s nice to be around them, but to be honest, I don’t have anything to do with the offense unless [Salmonbellies Head Coach] Rory [McDade] or [Salmonbellies Assistant Coach] Logan [Schuss] asks, and I like it that way. I don’t want to be coaching my kids at this level. I enjoy the defensive group - Rory and Logan are doing a great job, and I keep my nose out of it.”

Moments like those inspire each of the Jones boys to strive to be their best lacrosse selves. Ryan naturally has the rawest talent being the youngest by a handful of years, but even in the two seasons he’s been in the WLA - this current season is his second year - his brothers have noticed that Ryan is improving.

“Even from year one to year two, seeing him grow as a player has been fun to watch,” Mitch said. “I try and help him where I can… I don’t overstep too much. I give him some tips or pointers or things I think he needs to work on in games, but we’ll most go to the box occasionally to shoot around and get a workout in. I think that’s where it starts.”

Ryan has a more prominent leading role with the Burrards, which puts him on more radars than if he was playing with a team with more well-known star power. His numbers speak to his improvements from his first year to his second. In his inaugural WLA season, Ryan posted 17 goals and 25 assists for 42 points in 16 games. This summer, he has 14 goals, 23 assists, and 37 points through 10 games.

Most importantly, the Burrards have improved while Ryan is improving. Last season the Burrards were 1-17. This season, they are 3-6-1 with eight games left to play; that puts them in contention for the WLA’s fourth and final playoff spot, just two points behind the 4-5-1 Shamrocks.

“I think where he is is good for him,” Jason said. “Sometimes you come in, and you’re with one of the top teams, so you don’t get as much of a look or as much opportunity. He’s there [in Maple Ridge] and has an opportunity to show he belongs in the NLL or whatever league he wants to play in. It’s great for him.”

Ryan’s goal is to one day make it to the NLL, just like Mitch and Jason. Mitch has been a mainstay in the NLL as an elite scorer for many years, and Jason was briefly with the Colorado Mammoth in 2011. Ryan was signed by the San Diego Seals in 2019 but was cut from the roster before the team’s second season started.

At only 25 years old, Ryan has several years left to keep improving his skills and figuring out what his true, best lacrosse self looks like. One way he’s going to learn his potential is by watching his brothers and trying to emulate their most positive traits.

“I’m still trying to develop into being a well-rounded offensive player,” Ryan said. “It’s being that guy who can be relied upon to have the ball and also be the guy that can maybe mix it up a bit and get other guys open. That’s the main thing I’m trying to work on to show some pro teams that might want to give me a chance.

“My goal after this year is to get signed and go to a camp. I’m going to start from there, and then after that, all you can do is make the most of your opportunity. I’ve been more motivated over the last couple of years just seeing him out there. Every time I step on the floor, people see my last name, and I’m expected to perform well. That’s how I look at it.”

If you’ve been keeping up with the Joneses since 1985, you won’t want to stop now. With Randy, Jason, Mitch and Ryan all actively involved with the WLA, and in the case of Mitch, (and maybe soon-to-be Ryan) involved in the NLL, the story of the Jones family is a lacrosse-themed epic. As the famous quote was meant to go, “Once a lacrosse family, always a lacrosse family.”