Mike and Leslie Jablonski
Tougher penalties for illegal and potentially dangerous hits in high school hockey were met with approval from the family of Jack Jablonski.
"I'm thrilled they did that so fast. ... You want to see change," said Leslie Jablonski, Jack's mother. "We're on a mission to make hockey a safer sport.''
On Saturday, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) approved 5-minute major penalties for checking from behind, boarding and head contact penalties. Jablonski, a Benilde-St. Margaret's sophomore, was checked from behind into the boards during a junior varsity game against Wayzata on Dec. 30 and suffered a severed spinal cord.
"Hopefully we'll see USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey follow suit and let the referees enforce the rule book, " said Mike Jablonski, Jack's father.
Last week, the MSHSL received approval from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to toughen penalties in less than 24 hours. The MSHSL will ask the NFHS in April to move the new rules from experimental to permanent.
Staff member Craig Perry said the MSHSL will begin collecting data on players called for any of the three penalties through incident reports filed by referees. Previously, the MSHSL only tracked game disqualifications.
Perry said data collected for the remainder of the season will be helpful but not critical to making the rule change permanent and effective in all states. Previous rules changes such as instant replay were approved by the NFHS without data support.
"Even if you don't have data, you can't argue with our rationale, which is safety of the students," Perry said.
MSHSL executive director Dave Stead visited the Jablonskis on Friday and shared with them the rule changes about to take effect. Stead said Jack, lying in bed under a Minnesota Wild blanket, "had a big smile and said, 'Hey, that's great.'"
Leslie said of Jack: "To think that he's making change in the world is a good thing.''
Staff writer Pam Louwagie contributed to this report.