DULUTH -- A native of Marietta, it made sense for Doug Jones to sign with the Gwinnett Gladiators at the end of his college season last March.
He never got to play in front of the home crowd though; his five very successful games were all on the road.
So he's looking forward to Oct. 19 when the Gladiators play at the Arena at Gwinnett Center for the first time this season.
"I'd never even been to the arena," the 6-foot, 205-pound forward said.
He'll get his first chance to play for family and friends at home in a little over a month.
Jones' signing was announced by the Gladiators on Tuesday.
He said his discussions with the team began shortly after the 2011-12 season ended.
"It was always in the back of my mind, and my agent's," said Jones, who moved to Marietta from Connecticut when he was 6 and began playing hockey then. "It just seemed like the right place for me to be."
Jones had 25 points in 31 games for Dartmouth while serving as an assistant captain as a senior last year. He finished his college career with 107 points (29 goals, 78 assists) in 127 games and joined the Gladiators as the regular season hit its final weeks.
Jones, 25, sparked a comeback win with a goal in his first game. He hammered home a rebound and helped propel Gwinnett to a 3-2 shootout victory on March 23 in Greenville.
He assisted on a goal in the next game, another 3-2 defeat of Greenville.
Continuing to impress, Jones scored the second goal in a 2-0 win in Florida on March 28. He slipped over the blue line and ripped a shot over the goaltender's shoulder.
Then in the regular-season finale, Jones again lit the lamp. His slapshot beat Florida goalie Pat Nagle 62 seconds into the second period and cut Gwinnett's deficit to 2-1.
Jones ended up with three goals and one assist in five games with the Gladiators.
"(Those games) were fun," Jones said. "It was a cool time, with the team trying to clinch first."
Jones made the transition from college to pro hockey look easy.
"It's different," he said. "Pro is a little more controlled, a little more skilled.
"It worked out well, but I wouldn't call it easy."
Jones left before the playoffs started, returning to Dartmouth to finish his classes. He got his degree in economics and then returned to the Atlanta area for the summer.
He wasted no time getting to work.
Jones immediately began training in preparation for his first full pro season, which will be twice as long as the college one.
He's focused on overall conditioning in order to have the durability necessary at this level. He also worked on his quickness and agility.
Jones has spent the last month skating with other pros, including former Gladiator Derek Nesbitt and Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn, at the IceForum in Duluth.
He said Gwinnett head coach John Wroblewski is working to increase the team's size and strength from a year ago. The Gladiators were the conference's best team in the regular season, but were eliminated by South Carolina in the first round of the playoffs.
"He wants to play a fast style with big forwards, which is good for me," Jones said.