‘Jack’s Pledge’ keeping hockey culture in check

WINONA, Minn. — You might not know his name, but he’s sparking change in the hockey culture. Jack Jablonski is a Twin Cities high school hockey player who was paralyzed after he took a check from behind last December.

His family is now asking all Minnesota prep hockey players to sign a pledge promising to play it safe on the ice.

No matter what hockey jersey you see on the ice, Winona boy’s hockey head coach Fran McDevitt said all players share a common bond.

“Once you’re a hockey player, you’re always a hockey player,” said McDevitt. “They refer to it as a family and that’s the way you feel.”

Less than a week after Jablonski’s injuries, the Winona Boy’s Hockey team dedicated its game to Jack, a family member they’ve never met. 

“Anybody who’s a hockey player and hears something like that happening and knowing that it can happen to you,” said Winona center Ryan Grant. “You need to look to them and just think that that can happen.”


And it did happen during that game when Grant took a hit similar to Jablonski’s.

That hit resulted in a fight and 10 players getting ejected from the game, actions that Grant now looks back on wishing he could change.

“It made the team look bad in a way, but it was a mistake and you learn from your mistakes,” said Grant.

But unlike Jablonski, Grant can still play the game he loves. 

Now Jack’s family has issued a call to change the hockey culture. They’re asking all hockey players to sign “Jack’s Pledge”, a promise to play the game with safety at the forefront. That includes no checking from behind.

“We’ve all seen how the sport has gone from skill to danger and violence and now it’s time to do something,” said Leslie Jablonski, Jack’s mom. “In Jack’s case it’s too late but it’s never too late to stop this from happening in the future.”

It’s a pledge McDevitt said is a wake-up call and hopefully reminds players everywhere, there are more important things than coming out on top.

“The teaching of the game, the teaching of respect has to be more important than winning,” said McDevitt. “It just has to be because the kids have to understand that you’re caretakers of the game. The game has to be better when you leave it.”

In addition to the pledge, hockey groups and leagues are being asked to support harsher penalties for checks from behind.