Esme’s Blog: The Uphill Climb To Change Hockey Culture

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This weekend the family of Jack Jablonski announced a “grass roots” effort to change the game of hockey to make it safer.

What the Jablonskis, along with Lou Nanne and Benilde-St. Margaret’s Hockey coach Ken Pauly are calling for sounds pretty simple. They want the rules followed. They want the penalty for checking a player into the boards called.

Right now Pauly said it is rarely called. Pauly said it’s a hit that is as dangerous as checking from behind, the blind hit that left Jack Jablonski paralyzed. Nanne said players today are bigger and faster and because of that the impact of hits is much greater than it used to be.

There is no way injuries can be eliminated completely. They can and will happen in any sport, but what the Jablonskis, Nanne and Pauly are calling for is a game that relies on finesse, not violent hits.

It is a noble goal, but it is one that fundamentally calls for a change in the culture of Minnesota hockey.

According to Nanne, Minnesota Hockey was the only state hockey association that fought a proposed ban on checking for 11, 12 and 13-year-olds. Minnesota Hockey wanted those kids to keep on checking, despite the fact this age group has the largest size and weight differential of any age group.

As the parent of a 12-year-old who plays hockey, I am glad to say that Minnesota lost that fight. Checking is now banned for this age group. But that shows what the Jablonskis are up against. A culture, especially in Minnesota, that revels in the rougher, not the finer aspects of the sport.

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