A grassroots effort to make youth hockey safer has sprung up in the wake of the serious injury suffered by Jack Jablonski last month.
Jablonski, a sophomore hockey player, was paralyzed after he took a check from behind and crashed into the boards during a game on Dec. 30. Jablonski has regained some movement in his arms, but he is .
Now, the Minneapolis Hockey Association—which Jablonski used to play in—has launched "Jack's Pledge" and the corresponding website, jackspledge.com. Players across the state—from the youth ranks all the way up to the NHL—are being encouraged to take the pledge and commit to safer play. A similar pledge has been set up for coaches, urging them to teach safe play.
Teams and associations that take the pledge will get special helmet stickers that recognize Jablonski.
The Jablonski family, along with former Minnesota North Stars coach and general manager Lou Nanne, are expected to hold a press conference on Thursday to promote Jack's Pledge, the Star Tribune reports.
Jack's father, Mike Jablonski, has said he wants to see safer hockey promoted in the youth ranks.
"It won’t happen overnight, (but) USA Hockey needs to say, ‘Here’s the game we’re going to play,’” he said. USA Hockey is the governing body for all Minnesota youth leagues outside of high school.
On Sunday, USA Hockey, and its local affiliate, Minnesota Hockey, put out an open letter, urging coaches to reinforce proper body contact techniques and reminding players of the dangers of checking from behind.
"Jack's Pledge" (players version):
I pledge allegiance to the game of hockey, the fastest, hardest, most beautiful game in the world. Hockey is a state of extremes: extreme speed, extreme skill, extreme discipline.
Participation is a privilege extended to the toughest, the smartest, the best. As a member of this elite club, I pledge to uphold its code of honor: I play to win by being the toughest, the smartest, the best.
I play to win by following the rules. I do not play to win by any other means. I take the body to take the puck. I do not hit to hurt. I do not board. I do not cross-check. I do not check from behind. Ever.
When the whistle blows, I stop. When the puck drops, I go. You are right to fear me, because I intend to beat you--not break you. We may wear different jerseys, but we are all on the same team: Jack’s team. We are all hockey players. We all live in the same house.
We are Scorers, Grinders, Stoppers, Playmakers, Superstars. And we are Enforcers--Enforcers of Jack’s Pledge. Play safe. Play smart. Game on.