The recent Jack Jablonski injury not only continues to influence the Benilde-St. Margaret’s community, but also holds the potential to change the game of high school hockey permanently. In consideration of the new spotlight shown on the safety of hockey, Steve Jecha––father of BSM hockey player Anders Jecha––initiated a pledge. This pledge, known as Jack’s Pledge, will allow high school hockey players and coaches to commit to a cleaner and safer game.
The Jablonski family sees this pledge as an opportunity to make the most of recent events by changing the game of hockey, so tragedies like this one can be prevented. “We’ve talked to the Jablonski family. They want to make sure that something comes out of this––that the game cleans up,” said Jecha.
Though all involved wish Jablonski’s injury had not happened, his influence on the sport of hockey will be great. “Unfortunately, it took a serious injury to really move this forward…[but] Jack is going to change the game of hockey,” said Jecha.
Those who commit to Jack’s Pledge receive a free sticker displaying the words “Jack Jablonski #13 In Our Hearts” to put on their helmet. “We’ve got about 5,000 stickers, but I’ll probably buy 5,000 more because there’s so much of a demand for them. A demand around the country,” said Jecha.
While the stickers show support for Jablonski, the players sporting them must also remember the true purpose of the pledge itself: to play a cleaner game. “The message we’re giving to people is that, while we want them to support Jack Jablonski, we also want them to know when they put that sticker on their helmets that they’ve made a commitment to cleaner play…We want to see a bunch of kids out there playing with Jack Jablonski stickers, but also playing a cleaner game of hockey,” said Jecha.
The pledge includes guidelines for players and coaches, as well as provisions for stricter referee calls. “What we’re doing with the Minneapolis Hockey Association is creating a policy for better teaching our kids how to check, as well as providing stricter penalties to kids who are penalized with dangerous hits,” said Jecha.
The only opposition to such a change comes from coaches fearing adverse results from the new referee system. “Their biggest concern is that sometimes refs make bad calls, and we’re going to be doubling penalties on kids…[But] if we’re going to clean up the game we have to support the refs,” said Jecha.
Now, in light of Jablonski’s injury, parents like Jecha want to make these adjustments to hockey as quickly as possible. “We’re scared for our kids, and we want you to do something now…We should have it fully implemented and completed by the end of the week,” said Jecha.
Jecha, along with his associates Paul Larson and Mike Shogren, hope the pledge will gain enough support to make a permanent, widespread difference. “I think it’s going to start the ball rolling towards a cleaner game of hockey, and frankly I would like to see USA Hockey make rule changes to not allow checking along the goal line. I think a lot of serious injuries that take place could be eliminated,” said Jecha.