The family of Jack Jablonski called Thursday for immediate changes to make youth hockey safer through stricter enforcement of rules governing body checking and the boarding penalty.
The announcement came at a news conference at Hennepin County Medical Center, where Jablonski, a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School, is paralyzed from being checked headfirst into the boards during a game on Dec. 30.
A press release cited a doubling of hospital visits due to hockey violence in the last decade. An accompanying website page noted that leaders of USA Hockey, the national governing body for most youth and adult hockey, are meeting Saturday in Florida.
"A loud call-to-action is necessary to ensure that we place pressure . . . to immediately address this issue. We want referees calling boarding penalties and fans to support the referees that do so,'' the statement said.
Jablonski's parents, Leslie and Mike, were accompanied by his younger brother Max, well-known Minnesota hockey figure Lou Nanne and Benilde boys' hockey coach Ken Pauly.
Jablonski was checked from behind and crashed into the boards. Doctors have said he dislocated his spine and suffered several fractures and ligament disruptions.
USA Hockey and its state affiliate, Minnesota Hockey, recommended in an open letter on Sunday that coaches, officials and players take measures such as reminding each other of the dangers of checking from behind before games and practices and reviewing correct body contact and checking techniques.
The Minnesota State High School League, governing 280 boys' and girls' high school teams, issued a similar memo last week.
A Minneapolis hockey organization launched a website Wednesday night encouraging players from 4-year-olds to high school stars and older to sign a pledge in Jablonski's name to skate more safely. It also called on coaches to voluntarily sit players who commit violent infractions.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574