Esme’s Blog: Reforming Hockey

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has been only eight days since the horrific injury that left Jack Jablonski paralyzed. For all the outpouring, there has also been an underlying discussion about the need to take a tougher stand on the kind of hit that took Jablonski down.

It was a check from behind, the most dangerous hit there is. The player who hit Jablonski was initially given a two minute penalty, then ejected after the injury was apparent. Checks from behind can happen accidentally. But too often, as was the case in the Owatonna/Winona game, the hit appears intentional.

That hit resulted in a bench clearing brawl. Why not institute, for an intentional check from behind, an automatic ejection and multi-game suspension? For an accidental check from behind there should be an ejection with perhaps a one game suspension.

Too harsh? Some hockey fans might say yes. And it is true it is impossible to eliminate 100 percent the risks in any sport or activity. But this Hockey Mom says the price of not cracking down is, as we have seen these past eight days, far too cruel and devastating.

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  • rayjay

    I couldn’t agree more. Too many hockey people say it’s part of the game. I say it shouldn’t be. Kids are getting stronger and faster now with the almost year around training. Please think about it, you hockey people. I don’t want any of my 5 grandkids hurt or any more players for that matter. Now if the officials can only use their training to get it right, and coaches can instill in their players to get it right or else, we might be able to move on past this.

  • jason

    I too agree, but I would go one step further. It has been my observations through the years that when refs do not officiate a game tightly, and take the stance to “just let them play”, the game gets out of control and accidents/injuries happen more frequently.

  • observer

    I agree that penalties for an intentional check from behind should be tougher. Having said that, you are not accurate in your information. No one who was at that Winona v. Owatonna game is saying that it was intentional and you cannot make that claim. There was no “bench clearing brawl.” The players involved were all on the ice at the time of the infraction. All managed to get themselves involved in the ensuing fight between two or three players–with some just holding on to someone else to limit involvement and they were all ejected. I can agree with your conclusion, but not how you got to it. If the Minnesota State High School League REALLY wants to get rid of this dangerous activity, it will do just that. Players are also taught not to turn their backs when they’re near the boards because then they cannot see an oncoming player in order to receive the check safely. The game can be safe when player contact is used properly and only in order to take possession of the puck.

    • Esme Murphy

      ON video – the hit in the Owatonna game looks late and yes intentional. That’s the way it looks to me.

      • Jeff the ref

        I would disagree with your comment esme, I believe the players were just finishing out the play as the player receiving the hit turned. I think that your interpretation of this altercation is affected by the fact that all that is talked about in mn hockey is illegal hits, which is fine except when hits that do not affect the play are deciding the outcome of many games, ex maple grove vs blaine. Your bias towards these rule changes are unfair to how the game should be played

  • Al

    Here’s the issue as I see iit. Coaches need to be part of the solution and not just give lip service to the rules. I know a coach who will bench a player for a game because a parent caused the child to miss a game for family reasons. Would that same coach bench a player for blatant rules infractions in a game – not a chance. Especially if the player didn’t get a penalty call even though the coach knew what was going on. Too much of win at any costs attitutude by the coaches.

  • K. Alvinson

    A couple of nights ago there was a report on the cost of making the boards surrounding a hockey rink safer for those who smash or are checked into them as was the case with the Jablonski boy. If I recall, the cost to make a rink safer was in the neighborhood of a couple of hundred thousand dollars. If you stop to think of what it is going to cost to maintain care of Mr. Jablonski from here on out, it is a no brainer. But , sadly I have my doubts anything will be done to protect future hockey players because these accidents happen to other peoples children. I totally agree that my comment is harsh but not ment to be. The cost to make hockey rinks safer for players pales in comparrison to what it is going to cost of provide descent care for Mr. Jablonski. Think about that the next time you attend a hockey game and cheer when a player is dumped or slammed into the boards, showing proweress in sportsmanship.

    • The Crux of the Buscuit

      Would new and improved boards have stopped the injury from happening? Just wondering out loud. Could the answer be some sort of improvement in the equipment the players wear? Quarterbacks all seem to wear flak-jackets, would something like that protect players better? I see many defensive linemen wear some sort of high collar type device, would something like that for hockey help prevent these injuries?

  • devilsadvocate

    The audience that loves violent hockey altercations and fights should take some of the blame here. It’s an injury waiting to happen. Of course, slamming young players’ heads against the wall will injure them. How could we think otherwise? The audience loves the bloodshed in hockey; this is the cost.

  • AsMom

    I agree completely. It used to be that many coaches would eject their own players if they hit someone from behind. If coaches aren’t stepping up and ejecting their own players, USA hockey should do it for them.

    How about we next address the businesses who sponsor the ‘hit of the game’? It’s stupid and reminds me how we resemble the ancient Romans.

  • Ed

    Esme is right, tougher penalties with suspensions will at least get players, coaches and the fans thinking more.

  • Jodi

    Let’s be clear, this is not an “accident”. It is an injury caused by other players. These kids have been taught from Day 1 that this type of checking is unsafe and not allowed. If they had attacked this boy in the same manner on the streets, they would be charged with assault.

    Why haven’t we heard more about the players that caused this injury? Perhaps some public scrutiny would make others think twice before playing dirty.

  • Darren

    Ever watch a Hockey Fight Video on You Tube! Check it out sometime. The people in the stands go nuts! The foul language by the fans is horrendous. But they are just doing what the men on the ice are doing also! And thats what there paying and being paid for! It’s not about playing hockey anymore. Its aout who is the toughest guy on the ice.

  • Al

    Here’s a novel thought – how about hitting the pocket book where most people sit up and pay attention. Checking from behind and other vicious behaviors on the ice would incur a monetary penalty to …the team?…the coach??…the parents??…the league??…all of them??… along with a suspension. We can debate and rationalize the issue of safety in hockey till the cows turn blue and nothing gets done except for a flurry of bantering and finger pointing and then things settle down to the status quo. After all, it’s NOT our kid(s) lying paralyzed! And boys will be boys and hockey will be hockey right!? Until it’s your kid!

    • The Crux of the Buscuit

      Make teams put up a bond that league-wide would go the injured player. If an injury like this occurs (or two or three) at the end of the tear ALL teams in the state would have to hand over their money and it gets split up to pay for ongoing care. If each high-school team had to cough up 10 or 20k you can bet the rules would be enforced. Couple that with a season ending suspension and these hits would drop way off.


    If you have a chance read and listen to some of the recent interviews with Lou Nanne, the socalled Dean of MN Hockey. He correctly talks about checking being a ‘privilege’ and checking should be used to knock the opposing players hands and stick off of the puck. As other blog posts have mentioned I see plenty of players getting hurt when they miss a check and hit the boards hard without the padding of another player. The culture of hockey needs to change with coaches and associations worrying more about good sportsmanship than winning. My son was in a game yesterday with a trash talking opponent who made inappropriate comments to players and coaches while shaking hands after the game.

  • Molly

    I agree with Jodi, the way to end these sports ‘attack’s would be for the player causing the injury to pay-up!!! make him liable to pay all med expenses and maybe even jail time. like Jodi stated if this had been done out on the street that kid would of been charged with assault. this wasn’t just a sports ‘accident’ it was a deliberate violent attack and everyone knows that. Who will be held responsible for this young man Jack’s life that has been altered for life??? should be the player that attacked him and maybe even the coach and his parents.

  • K Blanc

    So we hear about Jabs and raising money to cover costs. There was a girl, who is also at Regions Hospital with the same hockey incident. What about her, why do we not hear anything about her? Are you raising money for her too? She just disappeared !!!!!!!

  • Brad

    As a hockey fan. I think that a hit from behind should be a manditory 2 game suspension for the player that does the check on the first time. Any further incidents should result in more drastic discallifications. As well as the coaching staff should also bear some responsibility for there players actions. I think the Staff should also see some suspensions as well for his team having to many checking from behind. I believe some coachs take a attitude it is not how the play the game it is you win at any way means possible. I feel the ref staff also take on the same type of suspension as the coaching staff for allowing it to go on by not calling these penalities. I have watch to many WCHA games were the refs stand around and watch all types of altercations and do nothing. They watch as all types of eleagal activities goes on after the wistles is blown and do nothing about it! There is one team in the WCHA that is notoriuos for these actions!

  • richard

    If a pro football quarterback, who makes $20M./year gets hit late or up around the head big pentalies are given. Shouldn’t the same be true for a high school athelete who’s in it for the love of the game? There should be a “NO TOLERANCE” rule that the perpetrater is suspended for (at least) the rest of the season.

  • Larry

    bottom line: pocket book is the only thing that will cause any sports changes. the player that caused the injury, the coach,the parents pay all medical bills, things will change out on the ice real fast.

  • SAN

    The REAL bottom line: accidents, as tragic as this one is, will happen in any sport. It is a always going to be a combination of player responsibility, coaching, officiating, and sports equipment. Regardless of the sport there are many factors that come into play here and my heart goes out to the Jablonski family – and all other families who have gone through this – as they loved ones were simply out playing a game that they loved. Some of you think the player who hit Jack is to blame, I have no doubt that he is already suffering his own level of guilt, and he needs not be punished by those of you posting here or anyone.

  • Andrew

    Interesting to note, not a comment above mentions a parental responsibility to raise a child with a sense of empathy to others, regards of the sport. I agree that each coach has a responsibility to police their own players. I call my young athletes out anytime their conduct is not appropriate on or off the ice. As a parent I have discussions with my boys – two in hockey 6 and 9, that Hockey is a game to enjoy, have fun and play hard. From the second each of my children step onto the ice, I tell them to give 100%, but this 100% must be in the context that it does not incur injury to others. I have iterated the message of empathy and compassion to others to each of my children since the day they were born. Knowing that if I wanted to teach empathy and compassion, it would not be taught to them at age of 13 and 14 or by someone other than myself. The lesson had to be taught early, often and from me, their father as my father taught me. If I’ve done my job as a parent correctly, any injury incurred by another player during sports at the hands of my children on the ice would and will be unintentional, because they would not know to contemplate anything else.

  • Jim Jensen

    Jim j

    To help protect the players, one idea is to allow checking ONLY in the players defensive zone. There are many positive ideas and actions come with this change

  • susan vaughan

    Please sign, comment, pass on.
    Maybe coaches should hold responsibility. At least there should be more serious measures to end this violence.

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