Hockey culture here is much like a close-knit family. You tease each other, compete fiercely against each other, and nobody better talk about anybody's team except the team members. There are fights. There are hugs. And when something big happens, everyone steps up to respond in a big way.
In the State of Hockey, people are reeling about Jack Jablonski. In a holiday tournament junior varsity game on December 30, two players checked Jablonski into the boards. He fell and didn't get back up. In what people describe as a freak accident, Jablonski's spinal cord was severed and doctors thought he'd be paralyzed from the neck down for life. After one surgery and prayers prompted by word of mouth and a big social media trend, Jablonski can move his arms. See what the hashtag #jabs generates-- everyone is talking about Jabby.Jack's story has been in the news up here everyday. The latest medical update. A team selling bracelets for a fundraiser. His team's return to the ice. People wearing #13 w/small patches. One team wearing mini-stop signs on their backs. Stories of what it's like to be paralyzed. Some of the angles are fresh and creative and interesting. Others are stupid. Since the incident, two other players have also been somewhat paralyzed in the game. This topic has sparked a tremendous amount of discussion and debate. Can hockey be regulated into a safer sport? Should it? Will this incident change the game forever? Dave and I have discussed this at length more than once and have even talked about if we'll be okay with our son Jack playing hockey. (which for Dave is a huge consideration) If Jack Jablonski's story is sparking debate in our hybrid household, there's no doubt it is generating discussion in those super hockey families too.
Our friends are one of those super-hockey families. Their son plays on four teams. Their four-year-old daughter plays on a team and played in a skills exercise this weekend at Mariucci Arena. On a break between games, they came home and slept for two hours and got up and went to play again. They go to Canada to play. They play all year. The kids aren't pressured to play. The parents aren't nuts. It's just what they do. And they all seem to enjoy it.
Hockey isn't just a sport; it's a way of life here. So the question as to how much the sport could change and will change is one that we're watching too.