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Two Benilde-St. Margaret's students hugged in the hallway on Thursday, Jan. 5, at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School, where students had made a sign for Jack Jablonski in the school's hallway.

Scores of Jack Jablonski's Benilde-St. Margaret friends and hockey teammates came to his bedside at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis throughout last week, bringing hopes and prayers and leaving encouraging notes and signs -- even a rosary.

And a visitor Monday evening brought tremendous guilt but left with forgiveness. He was the Wayzata player whose check from behind in the Dec. 30 game sent Jablonski into the boards and severed his spinal cord.

"He said he was very apologetic toward Jack," said Benilde-St. Margaret's junior varsity coach Chris McGowan, who spoke to the Wayzata player by telephone Tuesday. "He said Jack heard him and forgave him. Jack wanted him to be OK."

Jablonski's parents don't believe that the check, which drew a penalty and an ejection, was malicious. At the Jablonskis' request, McGowan and Red Knights varsity coach Ken Pauly called the Wayzata player and offered support. They did not discuss many details of the meeting.

"No one is vilifying him or saying he was trying to hurt Jack," Pauly said.

McGowan called the Wayzata player a "good kid" who found McGowan immediately after the game and apologized. McGowan said he admired the player's courage for going to the hospital to visit Jablonski, who is not expected to walk or skate again.

"He told me it was hard for him to see Jack that way," McGowan said. "He very honestly said he was struggling."

Wayzata varsity coach Pat O'Leary said the player "was skating at practice every day" last week, though he was permitted to miss practices as needed.

"He said the ability to speak to Jack was really great for him," O'Leary said. "Day to day, a lot of people have been reaching out to him. No one is blaming him for trying to hurt Jack, and we need to make sure he understands that."

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574

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