Jack Jablonski. Jenna Privette. These two names have been in the thoughts of the hockey community for the last few weeks, both for similar reasons. Jablonski was hit from behind into the boards on Dec. 30 and we now know that it is unlikely he’ll ever walk again. One week later, in a game she had dedicated to Jablonski, Privette was injured after going head first into the boards and has not been able to move her legs since, though an MRI has shown that there are no broken bones in her spine, leaving room for hope.
These types of injuries are rare, but to have similar instances of this injury to occur in a one-week span is rather horrifying. Last week, I documented just a few of the other instances in which players were left paralyzed. It’s a scary thought. Each of these scenarios played out differently, each ended with similar results.
There have certainly been instances in which these injuries could have been avoided, particularly in Jablonski’s and Privette’s cases. Checking from behind is the hottest topic in youth hockey after these two injuries. It should be. Hits from behind need to be examined and hopefully we can curtail such hits. It’s easier said than done.
There have been many calls for stiffening the regulations for checking from behind, but rule changes will only go so far. As my friend, Jess Myers writes, calls for harsher rules for checking from behind won’t be nearly as effective as changing the culture.
I agree with Myers, as well as another friend of the blog, Bruce Ciskie who expressed a similar sentiment. This is more on all of us than it is the rule makers. It’s on the parents to teach their child how to play the game smart and with respect. It’s on the players to take what they learn and apply it to their game. It’s on the coaches to provide an environment in which there is no room for “win at all cost,” but “have fun at all cost” or at the very least “play the game the right way.”
We are here to teach our youth players the joys of hockey, not the pressures of winning and eliminating an opponent.
Checking has already been eliminated from the age levels of 12 and below in USA Hockey, but it is expected of all coaches to teach players how to use their body to separate a player from the puck, rather than take him or her off his or her skates. It may be a few years before we see the widespread results of raising the minimum checking age, but this may help begin to change the culture.
Hockey is a physical game, and because it is physical it is dangerous. Though it is dangerous, it doesn’t have to be scary. The blow-em-up hits that get celebrated far and wide aren’t what make the game great. Checks from behind are even more egregious, with the inherent danger around the boards.
It’s time we all take a stand, and promise to teach our young players how to protect themselves and their fellow hockey players. If you don’t know where to start or what to say, maybe you should have your kids take Jack’s Pledge. It’s a perfect place to start.
Also, be sure to check out jabby13.com. The support continues to pour in from all over the world for Jablonski, as he begins this long battle to defy the odds.
Here’s information on how you can help support Jenna Privette as well:
Jenna Privette Fund
66 E. Thompson Ave.
West St. Paul, MN 55118