The severe injury suffered by hockey player Jack Jablonski has the Minnesota hockey community taking a closer look at the role of body-checking in the sport.
Jablonski, a 16-year-old sophomore, was checked from behind and into the boards during a junior varsity game on Dec. 30 against Wayzata. The hit left Jablonski paralyzed. He had surgery on Wednesday at the Hennepin County Medical Center, and though family members said it was a "success," the prognosis is that Jablonski .
Woodbury Patch blogger Aaron Johnson weighed in on the news earlier this week.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota State High School League sent a memo to all hockey coaches, referees and league officials, reiterating the dangers of checking from behind, which is illegal.
“For nearly a decade the MSHSL has identified the reduction and removal of checking from behind as a major point of emphasis for coaches, officials and hockey players,” the memo read in part. “High school coaches, officials and student-athletes all have an essential and continuing role in helping to remove this type of contact from games and practices.”
Coaches were also encouraged to remind their players daily to not check from behind. In Minnesota high school hockey, checking from behind draws either a 10-minute penalty or a game disqualification, depending on the severity of the hit. The Wayzata player who checked Jablonski on Friday was disqualified from that game.
General body-checking, however, is legal in Minnesota boys high school hockey. Craig Perry, the associate director of boys hockey for the MSHSL, said checking and contact rules are reviewed on an annual basis, first by the state Coaches Advisory Committee, then by the National Federation of High Schools. State coaches are meeting for this purpose next week, with the national federation meeting in the spring.
Minnesota girls high school hockey already bans checking entirely, and there has been some movement away from checking in the USA Hockey youth ranks. The USA Hockey governing board has bumped the legal checking age from 12-and-under (Pee Wee) to 14-and-under (Bantam).
boys hockey coach Shjon Podein said he was originally , but reversed his view after doing some research on concussions among young athletes. Now, after seeing the hit on Jablonski, Podein said he would be willing to at least consider taking checking out of boys high school hockey.
“I’d be 100 percent behind researching it,” he said. “You say to yourself, ‘Are we doing everything we can to protect (the players)?’”