When Jablonski was checked headfirst into the boards during a junior varsity game on Dec. 30, 2011, he symbolized every hockey parent’s worst fears realized.
Just days after his life was changed forever by an illegal hockey check from behind, high school sophomore Jack Jablonski lay paralyzed in a hospital bed determined to see the sport become safer. Seven years later, his mission — one shared by his family and hockey leadership in Minnesota — has yielded dramatic results.
A Star Tribune review of high school penalty data from more than 18,000 games played throughout Minnesota over nine seasons reveals a significant drop in calls for checking from behind and boarding infractions. During the 2011-12 season when Jablonski was hurt, penalties were called for those types of hits almost 1,600 times, approaching one every game. Last season the number fell to less than 500 overall, a rate of about one every four games.