His life drastically changed in a split second.
Jack Jablonski was a high school student playing a hockey game 3 1/2 years ago when he slammed head first into the boards when he was illegally checked from behind during a holiday tournament in the Minneapolis area.
He severed his spine and much of his body was instantly paralyzed.
One of the things audiences have been inspired by as I speak on the life lessons from the Miracle on Ice is how it continues to inspire. Danny Brooks, the son of the late legendary Miracle on Ice coach Herb Brooks, learned of what happened to young Jack.
As Charley Walters of Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported, Danny — in his mid 40s at the time and a successful financial advisor in the Twin Cities – drove to the house of his mother Patti Brooks to retrieve his father’s historic Olympic gold medal, which she keeps in a safe. Then he called Rob McClanahan, who starred for his father in those 1980 Olympics. Together, they drove to Hennepin County Medical Center to visit Jack.
“If there’s anything, especially when it comes to hockey, that more symbolizes a miracle, it would be Herbie’s gold medal,” Danny told the reporter, Walters. “We told Jack and his parents we’re hoping and praying for a miracle.
“I told (Jack) if you have any question to wonder whether miracles happen, I witnessed one in 1980. And we’re going to witness another one with your recovery.” (Danny Brooks was 12 when the Miracle on Ice happened in Lake Placid, NY)
At the hospital, Danny placed his father’s gold medal on Jack’s chest.
The opposing player who delivered the blow that sent Jack into the boards was issued a five-minute major penalty for boarding as well as a 10-minute game disqualification. The boy later asked for and received Jack’s forgiveness in a darkened hospital room. He has since quit hockey.
The power of forgiveness.
Then two incredible coincidences happened not long afterwards at a hockey game at Jack’s High School, Blaine High. They had a thing called ‘Chuck-a-Puck’ where fans buy a numbered puck and then toss it on the ice, with the one closest to the center dot winning. That night all the winning funds were going to the Jablonski family fund.
The winning puck turned out to be, out of 160 numbered pucks, #13, which was Jack’s number as a player. It ended up literally in the middle of the center dot on the ice.
Officials there are convinced a ‘greater power’ was watching over that puck toss.
The opposing player got the winning puck and gave it to Jack in person. He had been torn up all inside after the accident, as most felt there no maliciousness involved in the paralyzing hit.
Of course, this injury was incredibly hard on Jack’s parents, and especially for his younger brother, Max. Not long after, his little brother stood in for him wearing his jersey at a game.
With tremendous family and community support, Jack has battled hard and made improvements. He was able to move his triceps, which doctors did not think we would ever be able to do. He is determined to walk again, but he knew his dream of being a NHL player was over, so he changed it to being a NHL announcer.
He was visited by several members of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team when they were in Minneapolis to play a game (photo below).
They dropped off information about a unique scholarship program founded at the University of Southern California called “Swim With Mike.” It’s a scholarship program aimed at physically-challenged athletes. It was created after a former USC swimmer was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. The Jablonski family was not aware of this until the Ducks came visiting.
“If it wasn’t for ‘Swim With Mike’ and what their foundation has done for me who knows where I would be right now,” Jack has said.
Because of what the Ducks made them aware of by dropping off those papers, Jack is now a freshman at Southern Cal on a full scholarship for four years in their Communications program. He started college there this past January!
The past 3 1/2 years have been a constant challenge, but Jack says life is all about adapting. On bad days, he tells himself to remember how lucky he is compared to so many others with injuries. He forces himself to think about what he can still do.
He is still paralyzed from the chest down, able to move his arms through his shoulders. His mother said he moved his triceps, which doctors originally thought would never happen. He did because he believes in miracles. The very gold medal that came from the David-like US Olympic hockey team from their victory over the Soviet Goliath team had been literally laid on his chest.
This is a young man who continues to get the most out of life. He started a Minneapolis sports radio show, and one of his guest was ESPN star Michelle Beadle. Mustering the courage, he asked her to his prom!
To view his powerful story and remarkable attitude, I have put a video in below.
I continue to be fascinated by the stories of inspiration and courage that in some way are connected to what happened in mystical Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. Jack Jablonski reminds us about the power of the human spirit, never giving up, and always believing in miracles.
Born in Oxford and educated at Ole Miss, Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who specializes in sharing the fascinating back story of Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. His 90 minute to 2-hour presentation is filled with patriotism, the American dream, and the power of team. It is delivered to corporate, educational and church audiences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.