ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — Dressed in his team colors, Jack Jablonski quietly returned to his home arena, the St. Louis Park Recreation Center, now gliding along in a power chair protected by a halo instead of helmet.
It was the first time Jablonski had been back to the arena since his devastating injury. He was back to support his Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights as they faced Holy Family Catholic in the section playoffs.
“I saw like an entourage of people of people walking around him, and I saw the halo and then I knew it was Jack,” said Mike Mahoney, a senior at Benilde St. Margaret’s.
Neither fans nor teammates knew he’d return to the place he was paralyzed. Jack and his family concocted a plan to surprise his teammates at their sectional game.
“It must be really tough for him to come in here, see the ice and miss it so much,” said Maddie Houlihan, a freshman. She was one of the few students in the pre-game crowd who saw Jack flash that familiar smile and head straight for his team locker room.
“I just think he wanted to tell them to go out and play hard, be themselves and enjoy the game,” said his mother Leslie Jablonski.
“To see him come back, that was a joy, but to see him in the chair, back on the rink was really emotional,” she said.
Jack watched the game from a back corner, sharing handshakes, high fives and laughter. His mother said his arm movement his progressing, adding that Jack fed himself waffles Thursday.
“I can’t imagine the strength it would take to do what he is doing right now, but I think that is part of the healing process for him too as well,” said Mahoney.
For fans it doesn’t matter whether he’s skating or in the stands. Courage has changed this game, and in many ways, Jack is back where he belongs.
“He’s talked about it since day one, I want to get back to the rink,” said Leslie Jablonski.
And whatever Jack said to this teammates in the locker room, must have brought good luck. The Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights beat Holy Family 7-0 to advance in the playoffs.