Hit from Behind: Unseen Consequences of Jablonski’s Injury on the Hockey Community

John Flanagan '15, Contributing Writer

It was if a dam had broken. Since December 30th, the state of Minnesota and the nation have been awash with some of the most passionate and heartfelt support for a single cause in recent memory. Twitter, Facebook, newspapers, and the Web are plastered with the red and white logo that has been created in honor of Jack Jablonski, the BSM student affectionately known as Jabby.

In a fateful game on the afternoon of the 30th, Jablonski fractured two vertebrae and severed his spinal cord. The prognosis is grim, stating that he’ll never walk again.

Schools across the nation have participated in the whiteouts organized to show their support, and the hockey community as well as millions of concerned onlookers are shaken to their core. We all ask ourselves: how could such a terrible injury occur in a routine game? How could the game that has punctuated and enriched lives all over the world so horrifically damage one?

In the outpouring of support caused in the wake of this tragedy, coaches, parents, and players everywhere have to find a way to improve the game they all love, making it safer whilst not compromising the primal joy that so many find in playing hockey.

After visiting Jablonski, Lou Nanne, a former professional hockey player considered by many to be the grandfather of Minnesota hockey, was quoted by the Star Tribune as saying, “This is one of the reasons why USA Hockey legislated checking out of peewee hockey.” Said legislation was put into writing on June 11, 2011, but this new development is causing many to revisit the point.

According to a document issued by Michael J. Stuart, Chief Medical Officer of the USA Hockey Organization, spinal cord injuries and injuries in general increase in players as they age, showing that increasing checking restrictions does not always counteract the steady rise in intensity of play as players mature physically. This has caused many coaches to think about outlawing checking in high school, but many still disagree.

Ken Pauly, head coach of Benilde-St. Margaret’s varsity boy’s hockey, maintains, “we have the rules against checking from behind. We just have to apply them better.” Jablonski’s parents and coaches have said that hockey in general is too permissive, but the rules are already in writing.

As the debate rages on, however, we must all look to our own culture of hockey. It is imperative that Blake players be the best sportsmen and sportswomen around, so that even though the rules may change, our program still exemplifies fair play.

Even as the hockey community struggles to make the game safer and more enjoyable, the most important action for Blake is to remain unyielding in our support of our competitors and of Jack Jablonski.