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Everybody's best friend

By Peter Odney , 09/15/23, 10:15AM CDT


In her 19 years, Roseville's Jori Jones left an indelible mark on every person she met.

Friends and family signed a poster board during Thursday night's Celebration of Life for Jori Jones.

Roseville/Mahtomedi girls' hockey head coach Craig Rosenthal was leaving the Brooklyn Park Community Center's ice arena when he heard the news. With his 10-year-old daughter in tow, Rosenthal's phone buzzed with a call from his wife, Chelsey.

Jori Jones, Rosenthal's standout goaltender at Roseville High School for four seasons, had been injured in a car accident involving a minivan and an SUV carrying four members of the national champion Gustavus Adolphus women's hockey program at the intersection of Highway 40 and Highway 29 just west of Willmar. 

"The details and stuff were a little blurry," Rosenthal said on the eve of Jones' Celebration of Life. 

More calls came through. Finally, Jones' youth coach confirmed to Rosenthal that Jori had not survived the crash. 

"You can't believe something like that would happen to Jori Jones," Rosenthal said. "Slowly, the grief and the sorrow and the sadness set in as it became more and more real. It was a tough drive home with my daughter that I'll never forget."

The "never forget" part is key here. 

Because it's clear nobody will ever forget Jori Jones. 

Jones was named a semifinalist for the Let's Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year Award in 2022, posting a 1.94 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage.

"She just brightened up the room," Rosenthal said, recalling his first encounter with Jones during the Raiders' (now Marauders) summer training program when Jones was in middle school. 

"I mean, she brought that smile like everybody's talking about, and it was just so infectious," Rosenthal continued. "You wanted to be around her. She made everybody around her better and happier."

Punch Jones' name into any search engine, and the first few links are, understandably, about the collision. Scroll down a little further, or even move on to the next page, and you'll find that Jones was a four-year varsity letter winner, a team captain, and a semifinalist for the 2022 Let's Play Hockey Senior Goalie of the Year Award during her senior season. You may even see an article (or several) that labels Jones and her Gustavus teammates as national champions, a feat they accomplished together in the spring. 

Away from the ice, Jones took the classroom seriously, earning academic letters at Roseville and making the President's Honor List at Gustavus, reserved for students who maintain a grade-point-average of 3.7 or better during an academic semester. 

She volunteered in the Roseville Area Youth Hockey Association and the North Suburban Soccer Association. One could easily imagine her following in her father Jon's footsteps one day, coaching youth teams and administratively serving within the association.

She loved Carolina Blue, Cariobu Coffee, gummy bears, and wearing all-black on game days. 

Hundreds of people attended Jones' Celebration of Life, fittingly held at Roseville Ice Arena.

Her impact could be felt in spades on Thursday evening as hundreds of friends, family members, and well-wishers packed the Roseville Ice Arena's Olympic Room. 

A crowd of teammates passed through the hallways decked out in the black-and-silver of the Raiders or the black-and-goal of the Gusties. People told stories, paused beside photos, and gazed silently at a slideshow full of Jones' famous grin. They drank from cups emblazoned with Jones' number thirty-three, sported bracelets marked with JJ#33, and signed a poster board with inside jokes and countless I love you's.

"I was very fortunate that she came into my life as a hockey player, and I was her coach, but it was much bigger than that," Rosenthal said Wednesday. 

"Jori made you like her and love her beyond a goalie, beyond a student. It was more the person she was, and that's what was so special for me and why I hold a special place in my heart for her."

Gretchen Hopeman of the Roseville Area Youth Hockey Association has set up a fundraiser for the Jones family. To donate, click here

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