Well-wishers crowded into Jack Jablonski's hospital room and lit up his Facebook and CaringBridge pages all weekend as the high school sophomore and his family awaited a prognosis on a paralyzing injury he suffered during a hockey game on Friday.
"It's a parent's worst nightmare," his father, Mike Jablonski of Minneapolis, said on Sunday in the pediatric intensive care unit at Hennepin County Medical Center. "He dropped and didn't move. Right then and there I knew that my son, that there was something seriously wrong."
Known as "Jabby" to his friends, the 16-year-old honors student, hockey forward and varsity tennis player at Benilde-St. Margaret's scored the first goal of what would be a victory for the junior varsity Red Knights against Wayzata during the Holiday Hockey Classic tournament at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center.
Jack's team was up by one goal 5 minutes and 48 seconds into the second period when he made a dash for the puck near the end boards with two Wayzata players in hot pursuit, said Chris McGowan, the Red Knights' JV coach.
McGowan said two players rammed Jablonski from behind, smashing him into the boards, and he collapsed motionless to the ice.
Jack is in critical condition with two fractured bones in his lower neck. He's unable to move his legs and has only slight movement in his hands and fingers, McGowan said.
"He is a first-class kid. Definitely one of my favorite players in the program," he said. "It's team-first with him for everything. He's what I call a very high-end hockey player, too. And he's got an incredible hockey future ahead of him as well, assuming this all works out."
Doctors suspect that Jack suffered a bruised spinal cord and won't speculate about his recovery until the swelling reduces, his parents said. Once that happens, surgeons expect to fuse the two broken vertebrae, they added.