Hockey: Risk and Reward

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    By: Amy Franzwa

    The name Jack Jablonski may or may not be familiar, but here in Minnesota, a place known as the State of Hockey, this name has become a symbol of a lot of things, tragedy and inspiration to name two.  On December 30, 2011, Jack, a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret, was playing in a junior varsity hockey game. He was hit from behind by an opponent and doctors say that the resulting injuries will likely mean he will never walk again.

    When the news of the Jack Jablonski incident made the news, my thoughts instantly turned to Jack’s parents. They were now living every parent’s nightmare – they were watching their son battle for his life after a tragic accident resulting from participation in a sport that their son was so passionate about.

    Next, my thoughts went to one of my good friends. Her husband is a former college hockey player and she is the mother of three young boys under 8, two of which already have a couple of years on the ice under their belts. I wondered if she worries about her boys each time they lace up their skates? The answer is yes. When asked if she’d ever encourage her boys to hang up their sticks for a less aggressive sport, she said, “Never.”

    As a parent, our endless list of responsibilities includes keeping our children healthy. A lot of times, this is achieved by encouraging them to participate in sports and activities. The unfortunate reality is that certain sports, including hockey, come with a higher risk of injury because of their physical nature. But we can’t forget the tremendous social and emotional benefit gained from participating in sports. Teammates become family. Coaches become role models. And as with most aspects of life that are truly worthwhile, hard work and risk is inevitably involved.

    Failure and set-backs help to make stronger, resilient people and sports provide a platform for many life lessons. I can’t speak on his parents’ behalf, but I’m willing to bet that they don’t regret allowing him to play hockey. In the words of Ellen Goodman, “The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.”

    What happened to Jack Jablonski is tragic, but he is a true survivor. Despite everything, he has exuded strength and an optimistic attitude – qualities likely gained from his experiences on the ice.

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