Devastating Hits Have Parents Worried About Youth-Hockey Safety
Recently, two hits in the span of a week sent two Minnesota youth-hockey players to the hospital, according to an article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
One of those hits left a player paralyzed.
Now, Minnesota parents are reconsidering "a sport considered a birthright" by many in the state, the paper says.
On Dec. 30, 16-year-old Jack Jablonski was checked from behind and forced headfirst into the boards, according to a report from the Associated Press. Jablonski severed his spinal cord, according to the Star Tribune, and remains in the hospital, although he has regained partial movement in his arms and shoulders.
The other, 18-year-old Jenna Privette, reportedly experienced a similar hit this past Friday. Her parents told the Star-Tribune that she, too, was checked from behind, and fell down, unable to move.
She's feeling tingling in her arms, but she's still unable to move her legs or feet, her father told the paper.
The combination of the two injuries has brought the debate about violence in youth hockey to the forefront of the minds of many Minnesota parents in recent weeks.
"I don't know how you couldn't have some hard questions after this,'' said Benilde-St. Margaret's (Minn.) High coach Ken Pauly, Jablonski's coach, to the Star-Tribune. "My take is, you can't legislate against tragedy. But what can you do to lessen the likelihood that a tragedy will occur?"
"That said, the permissive culture of checking from behind is an issue," he added. "Why would that not be treated like fighting? Do we need rule changes? No. We need a change in mentality."
The Minnesota High School League bans all checking in girls' hockey and bans checking from behind in boys' hockey. Peewee players also aren't allowed to check before the age of 13, thanks to a rule change from the Colorado-based USA Hockey.
USA Hockey also expressly prohibits checking from behind at all levels, boys' and girls'.
According to the Star-Tribune, Minnesota was the one state that opposed USA Hockey's ban on checking in the 12 and under leagues, with advocates suggesting that coaches simply needed to teach players proper technique.
Mike Jablonski, father of Jack, sees things a little differently.
"Checking 10 to 20 years ago is different than it is now," he said to the paper. "You can't be hitting people blindly into the boards. Let's make this a finesse game of speed and skill."
UPDATE, Jan. 11, 6:00 p.m.: Students at St. Croix (Minn.) Lutheran High School dressed in blue today—the color of Jenna Privette's hockey team—in recognition of her injury, according to the Associated Press. (Privette attends St. Croix.)
The school president, Gene Pfiefer, also told the AP that the school is planning a wristband sale as early as Thursday to help Privette's family with the cost of her medical expenses.
Jenna's brother, Jake, told FOX 9 News that she hasn't yet recovered feeling in her legs, but that she's felt tingling in her arms.
Photo: Jenna Privette is being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. The family of Jenna Privette, a hockey player injured in a high school game Friday, says she's still unable to move her legs, but is beginning physical therapy. Jenna was injured in a game she'd dedicated to 16-year-old Jack Jablonski, a Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey player paralyzed in a Dec. 30 game. (Photo provided by Dan and Penny Privette/AP)
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