Saturday night, during the Wild-Dallas Stars game, Jack Jablonski led what was dubbed as hockey's largest stick tap when 18,000-plus fans received thunder sticks so they could tap along with the 19-year-old affectionately known as Jabs.
A stick tap in hockey, as Jabs explained last week, "is when somebody gets injured — and we saw plenty stick taps in the Wild game Monday in New York. You tap your stick on the ice when that player gets up hoping that everything's OK. It's to show respect for people injured in a hockey game."
Unfortunately, in December of 2011, Jablonski wasn't able to get up after a check from behind while playing hockey as a sophomore for Benilde-St. Margaret's. The injury left him a quadriplegic, but he has since become an inspiration to many.
Jablonski has devoted his life to helping others who are going through the same debilitating injury.
"The last three years, obviously life has changed a large amount, but I pride myself on trying to set a good example about how to approach a spinal cord injury after a traumatic change in life," Jablonski said. "We've started the foundation to give hope for other people that don't have the fortunate opportunity that I had. We want people to be able to get the best rehabilitation so they can make a recovery and get back on their feet.
"It's very important to me. I hope to make this as big as possible. I just want to change the world with spinal cord injury and how we look at it."
Jablonski's Bel13ve in Miracles Foundation (www.bel13vefoundation.org) teamed up with the Wild and Minnesota Hockey to kick off #StickTap2Hope, a social initiative to raise awareness of the innovative recovery treatments already available for people living with spinal cord injuries. The hope is this becomes a global stick tap with supporters tweeting their photos and videos.
Jabs hopes to do this annually, and maybe this can take off like the Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness for ALS last summer.
Before Saturday's game, Jablonski also held his annual gala to raise proceeds for the ABLE therapy facility at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley, where Jablonski does his rehabilitation four days a week for 2½-4 hours a day. The goal is to make Courage Kenny the largest facility in the North American NeuroRecovery Network created by the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation.
Proceeds also will go to the spinal cord epidural research that Susan Harkema is doing at the University of Louisville.
Jablonski has made vast strides and rehabs exhaustively. Regularly, he walks on a treadmill for an hour with assistance. He also works on the core muscles below the level of injury, does situps and an entire regimen meant to "activate muscles that you're never supposed to have, that years ago you would never be doing.
"Basically, you're not accepting the injury," Jablonski said. "You're working with what you do have but also working with what you don't have."
Jablonski is excited to head off to the University of Southern California in January. He will live half a block off campus and plans to major in communications. Perhaps, he'll even have a future in sports media. Each Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. on Sports Radio 105 The Ticket, Jablonski co-hosts the show, "Hockey Night in Minnesota."
Just follow Jablonski (@Jabs_13) on Twitter, it's clear he's a hockey nut (he's often on the event level of Xcel Energy Center meeting NHLers) and knows the sport well. Espousing that knowledge on radio seemingly has come naturally even though he used to hate public speaking.
Jablonski's positive attitude is beyond refreshing. It's impossible to have a conversation with him and not feel uplifted by his strength and desire to help others.
"I've been very fortunate with the support I have received," Jablonski said. "I have gotten a lot of opportunities others in my position don't get. I want to make it possible for everyone that's in my situation to get the opportunities I have gotten."