MSHSL Reminds Hockey Coaches About Checking

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota State High School League is senT out a warning to all Minnesota high school hockey coaches on Tuesday.

It said players need to be warned that checking from behind is against the rules and extremely dangerous.

This warning comes after 16-year-old Jack Jablonski suffered a paralyzing blow during a hockey game last week. The sophomore from Minneapolis is in the hospital now awaiting major surgery scheduled for Wednesday.

The push for an awareness and education campaign is coming from a number of areas, but is being led by Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne.

For Nanne it’s also personal. He has three grandsons playing high school hockey and he knows the Jablonski family.

“You sit up there and just cringe you just worry,” Nanne said.

Nanne said at times it’s hard to be in the stands. His three grandsons are standouts at Minnetonka and Edina High schools. Nanne has visited Jablonski, who he said had the potential to play professionally.

“He is an extremely talented player,” Nanne said.

Nanne called both the Minnesota State High School League and the head of USA hockey on Tuesday to urge a policy of coaches warning players before every game.

“The last thing they should say to their players is remember no checking from behind,” Nanne said.

It was a check from behind by two Wayzata players that paralyzed Jablonski. Jack Jablonski’s father, Mike, called yesterday for rule changes.

“USA hockey needs to make some changes. You can’t run guys going 20 miles an hour into the boards with a stick and smash their head into the glass, that’s not a sport,” said Jack Jablonski.

The MSHSL does not track injuries in hockey or any sport, so it’s not clear how often serious injuries occur. On the same day and at almost the same hour as Jack Jablonski’s devastating hit, a similar tragedy appeared to unfold at the Totino-Grace/Red Wing junior varsity game.

Play was stopped for at least 30 minutes as a Red Wing player was immobilized and rushed to a local hospital. Red Wing High School told WCCO-TV on Tuesday the player has fully recovered. Any change in rules may be a tough sell.

This year Minnesota was the only state in USA Hockey that opposed doing away with checking at the Peewee youth hockey level. Minnesota lost that battle and checking is now banned for 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the junior varsity game between Wayzata and Benilde-St Margaret’s scheduled for Thursday has been canceled. The varsity game will go on as scheduled.

More from Esme Murphy
  • Brett

    Though I am no hockey ‘expert’, I see no excuse for ‘blind checking’, especially at this level. I know that ‘intimidation’ is part of the game, but it shouldn’t cost you your LIFE, after all, this is a SPORT, hockey fans. Face to face is one thing, driving someone headfirst into the boards is a cowardly act, with huge ramifications.
    Somebody did that to me when I was a teenager a a local park, and I didn’t even have a helmet on. I felt lucky to not have a serious injury. That’s when I gave up ice skating for good. There is nothing ‘tough’ about trying to drive another players head THROUGH the boards. It’s the EASIEST WAY to seriously hurt (or even KILL) someone, when they have their back turned to you. Yep, I’ve heard about how your eyes should be 360 degrees, and expect to get hit, but it’s getting ridiculous. Even if this kid survives, guess what the medical bills will add up to? Such ‘hits’ aren’t necessary to keep the game exciting or competitive. The emphasis should be on skating and shooting skills, not who can make the biggest, CHEAPEST HIT.

    • hvm

      Thanks for having the courage to go against the herd by speaking up.!! You are to be commended as too many don’t have the courage to speak up!

      A concerned Gramma

    • Dawn

      Brett, Thank you for speaking up. I agree with your thoughts completely.

  • Andi/peewee parent

    There are rules against checking from behind. Unfortunately these rules are often not enforced. When a player is called for checking from behind, the penalty is only a 2 mn minor. The player who caused Jack’s devastating injury received the maximum only because Jack was injured on the play. Maybe if checking from behind automatically drew a 5 mn major and ejection from the game, players and coaches would learn how to control themselves and promote skill instead of brute force.I am a parent of a hockey player and I do not want to see a bunch of “reactionary” rules, but I certainly think the sport needs to hold players and coaches more accountable. What I see from the stands about every other game is over the edge coaches and no consistency in regard to how officials call a game. Refs often do not hold players accountable until frustration is super high and the physical side (elbows, tripping) of the game has gotten out of control. The MN State HS League warning should be taken seriously by association hockey, not just our high school teams.

    The Jablonski family is in our prayers.

  • san

    It is an unfortunate situation but all over hockey-land, Minnesota and elsewhere, there are safety rules in place and it is the enforcement of these rules and also through effective coaching that needs to be where the focus is. Regardless of the sport, whether it be football, basketball, soccer, baseball, or hockey, there are bad choices made by players – this happens at all age levels. Coaching, teaching, and enforcement need to be where the focus is placed so that others can avoid serious injury. I don’t think there is a sports fan out there who wants players to get hurt, but injuries will happen as a ‘natural’ part of any game.

    My thoughts go out to the Jablonski family.

  • rayjay

    Make referees and coaches fully responsible for this. They are the enablers. They are in control.

    • Carl

      So rayjay are you saying the referees and coaches should pay the medical bills and be liable in court for any long term effects?
      I dont think so, it comes down to the individual player who made a personal choice to deliver a cheap hit on another player.
      I played hockey all the way thru college, and checking from behind has always been a serious issue. there are already rules in place to enforce the rules. there is no need to have a knee jerk reaction. My brother was severly hurt by someone tripping him and slid into the boards head first. These are freak accidents and dont need anymore legislation or placing blame on anyone but the one who committed the act.

  • Rockford

    USA Hockey took a good first step by eliminating checking at the Pee Wee level. A good second step would be to get rid of the facemasks. Back in the day you kept your stick down so your opponent would keep his stick down. The kids are so padded up they forget the risks of the game. As a former player, coach and referee, the coaches need to stop yelling “body”, the refs need to quit “letting them play” and the players need a way to self police the danger in the sport.

  • l

    those boys that checked know full well that is not to be done and they took a cheap shot. may they suffer like this young man will the rest of his life. i’m sorry thats how i feel, it was so unnecessary

    • aa

      I too get very upset when players take a cheap shot but hoping they will suffer for the rest of their life is just plain evil. They are just boys playing hard and I am sure they never meant for something like this to happen. Jack would probably agree and be the first to disagree with your comment. I am the mother of a 16 year old hockey player and have seen my share of cheap shots. If this boy is known to hit from behind then it is the coach and referees who allowed it to happen to carry the burden of guilt. .

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