Minnesota teen's ice hockey accident all to familiar for one-time Moorhead hockey playerTwenty-eight years after he was struck by a similar tragedy on the ice, former Moorhead High School hockey star Stephen Dorsey faces a struggle: Should he – really, when should he – reach out to a newly paralyzed hockey player, 16-year-old Minnesotan Jack Jablonski?
By: Ryan S. Clark, Forum Communications
MOORHEAD – Twenty-eight years after he was struck by a similar tragedy on the ice, Stephen Dorsey faces a struggle: Should he – really, when should he – reach out to Jack Jablonski?
Jablonski is a 16-year-old hockey player for Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park who was paralyzed last week after being checked head-first into the boards during a game.
Jablonski’s story has those in Minnesota’s huge hockey community taking a closer look at how the game is played.
It’s also a story too familiar to Dorsey, a former Moorhead High School hockey star who nearly 30 years ago was left paralyzed after being checked head-first into the boards.
The circumstances of the two accidents are eerily similar. Both Dorsey and Jablonski were tangled up with other players before hitting the boards head-first, causing compression fractures and paralysis.
“It’s crazy. As a human being, you feel for people who experience something like that,” said Dorsey, who is a quadriplegic. “For such a life-changing event to happen while doing something you love is difficult.”
The 44-year-old Dorsey now lives in Henderson, Nev., a Las Vegas suburb, but he still has family and friends back in Minnesota.
Reading and hearing about Jablonski returned Dorsey to the night his life was forever altered – Dec. 23, 1983.
Dorsey, like Jablonski, was a 16-year-old sophomore. In a game against Fergus Falls, he was checked from behind and slid into the dasher boards. He was unable to brace the collision because his hands were under his chest. He fractured two vertebras and damaged his spinal cord.
“When you live through that, it’s almost impossible to not bring yourself back to what happens,” Dorsey said. “Those feelings come back. It’s been almost 30 years for me, but it was a pretty memorable event in my life and it brings back those memories.”
Jablonski has regained slight movement in his right arm and shoulders, but cannot move his legs, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
He underwent surgery on Wednesday to fuse his damaged vertebrae, according to a post on his CaringBridge Journal.
Jablonski's parents wrote late Wednesday evening on his CaringBridge Journal he will not be able to walk or skate.
What happened to Jablonski has touched thousands of people. He’s been a trending topic in Minneapolis on Twitter the last few days. Pro hockey players and celebrities such as “Bones” TV star David Boreanaz, an avid hockey fan, tweeted support for Jablonski.
Jablonski’s injury has also increased awareness about one of the most dangerous aspects of the game – checking from behind.
The Minnesota State High School League, the state’s governing body on high school sports, sent a note to all hockey coaches, officials and administrators regarding checking from behind. It asked all parties involved to be responsible in the hopes of preventing further injuries such as Jablonski’s.
Hours after the Tuesday memo was sent, there was a check from behind during Moorhead’s win over Thief River Falls. Moorhead sophomore Aaron Herdt was going for a puck and was checked, causing him to slide head-first into the boards.
Herdt only had a scratch on his head and later returned to the game, but Moorhead coach Dave Morinville knows it could have been worse.
“With everything that’s happened, when you saw Aaron go into the boards, there’s a hollow pit in your stomach,” said Morinville, who has coached at Moorhead for 17 seasons. “To see that happen, you’re just worried.”
Morinville believes Jablonski’s incident will lead to referees calling checking from behind penalties more often.
He added that players are taught to have one hand on their stick and the other hand out to brace themselves and the player they are about to check.
“You have so much leverage when you have two hands on a stick,” Morinville said. “It’s like you are stapling someone from behind.”
Perhaps if the right method had been used in Dorsey’s case, he could have fulfilled his dream to play hockey at a higher level.
“I wanted to play beyond high school and get my degree,” Dorsey said. “I was very motivated and enjoyed the game a lot while I had the chance to play. I have no regrets about that. Who knows, I would have given it a good try.”
Dorsey said he has no problem talking about how his life turned out. He’s had successes, earned two degrees, has a 20-year-old daughter who is a pre-med student, and he’s enjoying his life with wife Michelle.
And Dorsey’s OK talking about how he went through anger, denial and later acceptance about the injury and the impact on his life.
He’s proof there can be triumph from tragedy.
These are the messages Dorsey wants to deliver to Jablonski if and when the time is right.
“I know they’re going through a lot right now,” Dorsey said of Jablonski and his family. “But if there’s anything I can do for him, I am more than willing to extend my hand to him.”
The article is from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, like the Herald a Forum Communications Co. newspaper.