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Minn. Strengthens Youth-Hockey Rules After Hospitalizations

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In response to two recent hits that sent youth hockey players to the hospital, the Minnesota State High School League board of directors decided to toughen three types of penalties for hockey players, effective immediately.

Any player that checks from behind, violently checks a player into the boards, or makes contact with another player's head or neck will now earn at least a five-minute major penalty, instead of a two-minute minor penalty.

The change means that the offending player's team will be down a man for the duration of his penalty.

If referees determine that a player was excessive in any one of these three penalties, they must assess a game disqualification penalty along with the five-minute major.

The organization said in a statement that the move was made to "reduce and remove dangerous contact that has led to severe injuries to players."

On Dec. 30, 16-year-old Jack Jablonski was checked from behind, headfirst into the boards. He suffered a spinal cord fracture from the hit, leaving him paralyzed.

Less than a week later, 18-year-old Jenna Privette experienced a similar check from behind and fell into the boards. She still hasn't regained feeling in her lower body, according to a recent statement from her brother.

Both the boys' and girls' hockey advisory committees helped develop the recommendations that led to the strengthening of these three penalties.

The MSHSL requested permission for the changes from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which gave its approval in less than 24 hours, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead told the paper that he'd never seen such a major change approved and implemented so quickly in his 26-year career.

"Education is a critical piece of making these changes," said Craig Perry, MSHSL associate director, in a presentation explaining the new changes. "In the long term, we're working at changing a culture."

"This is really about accountability and respectability for the entire hockey community."

Photo: Max Jablonski, 13, brother of Jack Jablonski, carries a flag before the Minnesota Wild's NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in St. Paul, Minn. Jack Jablonski played junior varsity for Benilde St. Margaret and was paralyzed during a hockey game last month. (Genevieve Ross/AP)

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