Newest Steel Jablonski inspires amidst adversity
The name is there on the team’s web site roster page, along with the others ready to take the ice for the Steel in its home opener Friday, Sept. 20 against the Green Bay Gamblers.
It brings no special attention. It is found there with the same lettering as other names on the page. Look for number 13 and you will find it. The name is: Jack Jablonski.
That name and the story behind it has become a special one in the hockey world. The USHL franchise in Chicago has embraced the message and the Steel will move that story ahead to its players and fans both on and off the ice this season.
In case you’re not aware about Jack Jablonski, here’s the short version of his story.
Jablonski attends Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School in suburban Minneapolis, Minn. The school has been a prestigious hockey power in the state where prep hockey is as important to it as prep basketball is to Indiana.
Jack was an up-and-coming player for the Knights as a sophomore until a hit into the boards during a game paralyzed him from the chest down nearly two years ago. The check came in a junior varsity game and injured his spinal cord.
His Twitter account notes the honors student is “Living to prove the doctors wrong.” Jabby, as he is also known, works daily in therapy using an advanced program that is part of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Program.
Christopher Reeve is the former movie actor who starred in the “Superman” movies before a fall from a horse injured and left him paralyzed in 1995.
Enter the Chicago Steel and Head Coach/General Manager Scott McConnell. The Chicago coach had never met the youngster, but had heard of Jablonski and his positive attitude from other stories about his recovery.
McConnell was also put in touch with Jablonski by a Benilde-St. Margaret’s teammate, whom the Steel also selected in last summer’s USHL draft.
Jablonski had said he wanted the USHL to be the next step in his hockey career before the injury. The Steel were ready to make that happen.
But just to be sure, Jack reminded USHL teams ahead of the draft he was ready. He tweeted a message on his Twitter account, @jabs_13, saying, “Dear USHL teams, Just thought I’d let u know I am eligible for tomorrow’s draft. Sincerely Jack Jablonski.”
The reminder was not needed for the Steel. McConnell said they already had plans for that.
“There was no question that we were using one of our picks on him,” McConnell said. “Jack’s heart and passion for life and the game of hockey embody everything that makes up the Chicago Steel, and we are proud to call him a teammate and family alike.”
That is what the Steel did, as Jablonski became the Steel’s final pick in the June draft. But the story moved forward earlier this month when McConnell announced that not only was Jablonski a draft choice, but now was an official member of the team roster for the season.
The decision to make Jablonski a part of the team was solidified when the two met for the first time. McConnell said, “We were taken back by his positive demeanor, attitude, and the courage he has displayed. His attitude is very humbling, and it puts into perspective what really matters in life. Nothing is taken for granted, and you make the most of every situation that you’re in.
McConnell said the team will promote Jablonski’s fight against spinal cord injuries this season. “We plan on having Jack come down to be around his teammates again,” he said. “We plan on continuing to share the inspiration that he provides all of us through the way he lives his life.”
The Steel also has plans to help in fundraising for the foundation created after the injury. “We plan on having a night dedicated to raising awareness for Jack’s foundation,” McConnell said. “Throughout the event, we will assist with fundraising efforts geared towards his cause.”
The foundation is called the Jack Jablonski BEL13VE in Miracles Foundation. The number 13 was Jablonski’s number on the ice and is prominent in logos promoting the foundation.
That foundation raises funds to support others who have suffered spinal cord injuries in their care and recovery.
Jablonski inspired his high school hockey team to win a state championship in Minnesota three months after his injury. I’m certain he would not mind inspiring his new team to a Clark Cup title for Chicago next spring.
The Steel will start the season without Jack Jablonski’s presence on the ice. But, they will have their teammate’s message of courage and determination to overcome with them the entire year.
More information on the Jack Jablonski BEL13VE in Miracles Foundation can be found on its web site, www.jabby13.com.