Jack Jablonski, the former Minnesota high school hockey player whose story of being paralyzed on the ice reached many Minnesotans, said Wednesday that he had another obstacle to overcome — accepting his sexuality.
Jablonski is gay, he shared in social media posts following an interview with the Athletic. He struggled to come to terms with his sexuality as he tried to recover from the paralyzing injury that happened during a Minnesota high school hockey tournament in December 2011.
"It's been a dark and lonely journey for a long time," Jablonski, 26, said in an interview with the Star Tribune. "For me it felt like now that I've gotten to the point where I'm comfortable and proud of who I am and wanting to move forward in my life — I felt it was time to put that out there."
Jablonski, who was a 16-year-old student at Benilde-St. Margaret's at the time of his injury, said he looks forward to starting to be his true self.
The struggle to accept his sexuality came right around the time of his injury — when a body check sent him crashing head-first into the boards. He decided at that time that his recovery had to be his main focus.
But he felt "isolated" and like he had no one to talk to, he said.
In his social media posts, Jablonski said growing up playing sports surrounded him in a "straight, masculine world." He felt different, and he internalized his feelings. But he said he was inspired by athletes who came out before him.
"I am not a professional athlete, but I plan on spending my life and career in sports," wrote Jablonski, who now works in public relations for the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings, who expressed support for him. "Having seen the acceptance to the brave men and women that came before me, I can't thank you enough for what you've done to pave the way in sports."
Jablonski said he's been overwhelmed by the positive support he has received. And he hopes sharing his story could help those struggling with their sexualities or coming out.
"I hope someone seeing this can see there's so much support out there," he said. "The best way to go about life is to be who you are. I'm on day one; it's a huge relief."