Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament: Why Jack Jablonski Wasn't on the Ice

When Benilde St. Margaret's forward Jack Jablonski was injured in a game earlier this season, he became a national story. Everyone covered the story from Puck Daddy to NBC Nightly News. When the hockey world responded with a massive outpouring of support, the story was cemented in the minds of the hockey family. When the Red Knights won the Class AA state championship on Saturday, there was one thing everyone who had heard the story wanted to see.

Jack Jablonski on the ice with his teammates, receiving that coveted blue ribbon with the gold medal at the end.

That didn't happen. Jabs was not allowed on the ice for the medal ceremony. His teammates were awarded their medals, they shook hands with the powers that be, and they left the ice to live out the fantasy every hockey player born in our state... to celebrate a state championship with their team.

The entire team.

Why was Jabs not on the ice? You may have heard, but it turns out... the insurance company said no. The insurance company. The statement, and some reaction, after the jump.

Here is the statement from the MSHSL, from (of all places) their Facebook page:

A number of people have asked questions about why Jack Jablonski was not on the ice for the award ceremony on Saturday night. Jack was not listed as a member of the official roster, but the League staff worked directly with the school and the coaching staff to ensure that Jack could be an important part of his school team before and following each game.

Championship medals are awarded to each member of the team, team managers and coaches. A school can also request additional medals for players, and we accommodate all teams in all sports to ensure that their needs are appropriately addressed in a timely manner.

In order to make sure the $2 million Lifetime Catastrophic Insurance policy the League purchases for each athlete was not at risk, the League's insurance carrier was contacted. I was informed that if an accident of any type would have occurred, the insurance claim may well have been jeopardized.

The MSHSL joins everyone in Minnesota and beyond in wishing Jack all the best in the future.

Dave

"Dave," in this case is Dave Stead, MSHSL Executive Director.

The first two paragraphs are all well and good, but the thrill of victory is not found in the medal. In any championship, what is the first things the players do? Do they immediately rush over and grab the respective trophy for their league? In every championship event I have ever witnessed, the team rushes to... each other.

It is their moment. One they earned together. The players get a few moments to celebrate outside of the scripted ceremony to follow. They get a precious few moments to be a team, on their field of play, in pure joy. The medal is a nice keepsake. The celebration and the ceremony are what the players play for.

The third paragraph is where we find trouble. Go back and read it again. I'll wait here. Got it? Good.

The insurance company made the call. Not someone in charge of the tournament, not someone in charge of the MSHSL. The insurance company. Sure, the buck stops with Mr. Stead, but he deferred to the underwriters. The bean counters. The lawyers.

Rather than provide a fairy tale ending to a story that never should have happened, Stead and his insurance company cronies decided to make one of the most ridiculously stupid decisions in the history of The Tourney. The dream ending to a terrible situation, ruined by Bad Decisions Insurance Company, LLC. Maybe Disney can change the ending when they make the movie. Let's just hope they buy the right insurance policy before they start filming.

But hey, insurance is a big deal. We all know that. Car insurance, homeowner's insurance, health insurance, life insurance... it adds up, and can be really expensive. We have it for those "just in case" moments in life. We do everything we can to keep those things from happening, as is our expectation.

Yet, sometimes in life, we take risks. We go out on a limb and do things we wouldn't normally do. Sometimes for the thrill of it, sometimes because it is the right thing to do. What would happen if people who witnessed a car accident called their health insurance companies before they ran toward the injured people and pulled them from a flaming car?

You called the insurance company? What did you think they were going to say? "Nah, go ahead and add more risk to the situation, we love risk?" It's a freaking insurance company. Of course they are going to tell you no. Just another reason not to ask.

The other reason? Because it was the right damn thing to do.

Jablonski deserved to be out there. His teammates deserved the celebration they earned. This isn't about me, the hockey world, the fairy tale ending. This is about a hockey player and his teammates, and poor decision by the adults in charge of the event they make possible.

I wonder how much money the MSHSL made off of The Tourney. I wonder how much money the MSHSL made off of the games these kids played for years before someone had the revelation that checking from behind should be a serious issue. Maybe the MSHSL should stop thinking with its wallet, and start thinking with their brains and hearts.

In fact, maybe the MSHSL should stop thinking with MY wallet.

And if you're about to say that the league made the right choice, since there was an insurance issue, think about a couple things. First, the tournament was over. It's not like there was going to be some kind of retroactive injury that the league wouldn't have been covered for.

Second... how about this?

In 1998, Valdimir Konstintinov was in jured in an car accident and did not play the entire 1997-98 season. When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, the most treasured hockey trophy on the planet, Konstantinov was wheeled onto the ice in his wheel chair, had his picture taken with the Cup, and was taken for the traditional victory lap with the Cup.

Put your thinking caps on for a moment. The MSHSL removed Jablonski from the on ice ceremony and celebration because of a $2 million insurance policy, right? Is anyone under the impression that the Cup, each individual player, the arena, the team, the ice... everything were heavily insured?

I wonder which event had more insurance money surrounding it, the MSHSL state tournament, with their $2 million policy, or the Stanley Cups Finals with players making that much to play the game.

I got married on an ice rink. I bought a $1 million insurance policy for the event (per arena rules). You know how much it cost me? About $100. Is this what we're worried about? A couple hundred dollars? The $2 million policy?

The people behind this decision should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe the MSHSL needs a new insurance company. Better yet, maybe the MSHSL needs a new Executive Director. One that doesn't let the insurance company make decisions for him.

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