EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) — The story of Benilde St. Margaret’s hockey player Jack Jablonski’s paralyzing injury is a chilling reminder, because 15 years ago Ben Peyton was playing hockey for Edina when a hit left him paralyzed.

He has made great progress since that day, not just physically.

Peyton, a high school kid who just wanted to play hockey, took a hit on Dec. 22, 1996, and ended up in the hospital wondering if he would ever walk again.

Now 15 years later he walks with a cane, well aware of how life can change. As he reflects back on what was, he knows what that healing for Jablonski starts with support.

“I remember how much a support system meant to me and really what was important in life,” Peyton said. “That’s your family, your faith and your friends.”

That is where it starts for Jablonski. His teammates are his friends, but what will come from this could be more profound.

“It’s hard to remember what life was like prior to my accident,” Peyton said. “I think if you start to adjust to a life like this, it’s the new normal.”

That’s what they’re dealing with at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, a feeling you can’t prepare a game plan or a team for while they all try to come to terms with what’s happened.

“I think this is a process. If we think that getting back in a couple days and playing is going to end this, it’s not,” said Benilde hockey coach Ken Pauly. “I think us understanding and them understanding that it’s okay to hurt, it’s okay to be in pain and that we’re in this together. I think they’re handling it as well as you can handle it.”

What Peyton learned to deal with in his new life is that there’s a new way to look at things. There’s a way to make it and there is something that came out of his accident that changed his life for the better.

“This is going to be something that he’s going to find a purpose,” Peyton said of Jablonski. “He’s going to have to find the reason for this. I can’t tell him, but that’s what my thoughts and prayers are, that he’s able to find the reason why this happened.”

Benilde-St. Margaret’s canceled its game with Wayzata scheduled for Thursday night. Their game against St. Louis Park on Saturday is on as scheduled. With Benilde located in St. Louis Park, many of those players know Jablonski well.


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