Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/22/12
This year's Hockey Day Minnesota took on a whole new meaning, as the day-long event was dedicated to a local high school hockey player paralyzed on Dec. 30. Jack Jablonski, a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret's, was checked from behind during a Red Knights junior varsity game late last month. His spinal cord was severed during the play and he lost all feeling below his neck. Doctors said he would never be able to walk or use his hands again, but the 16-year-old Jablonski has already proved them wrong. A week after the injury, Jablonski was able to move both arms up to his chest, something he was told he wouldn't be able to do. Jablonski still has a long road ahead of him and will likely never walk again, but he has plenty of support in Minnesota and around the world -- as is evident by the 134,045 that was raised Saturday for the Jack Jablonski Fund during an all-day telethon. "It's bigger than life," said Jack's mother, Leslie, about the support her son has received. "We're speechless. We don't even know what to say. Our gratitude to everybody is absolutely huge. I've never seen anything like this. We just appreciate the prayers, the cards, the thoughts, the donations. We just can't get our arms around it. It's wonderful." Aside from the money raised, Jablonski -- or "Jabs" -- was honored in other ways on Hockey Day Minnesota as well. Local musician Tim Mahoney wrote a song titled "Believe" in honor of Jablonski. The Minnesota Wild wore stickers with Jablonski's No. 13 on their helmets during their game against the Dallas Stars. Several Wild players -- as well as players from other NHL teams -- had previously visited Jablonski in the hospital earlier in the month. He has received numerous autographed jerseys, including one from "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky. When Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck visited Jablonski at the hospital, he told "Jabs" he'd score a goal for him. Clutterbuck did just that, finding the net early in Minnesota's 5-4 win against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 10. "I thought about him right away," Clutterbuck said. "I was there and he was joking about how (Tampa Bay forward Steven) Stamkos called and promised he'd score him a goal and he never did. He was laughing about that, so I told him that I'd score him a goal. (Devin Setoguchi) promised him a shot on net, so I tried to one-up Seto and promise him a goal. I was lucky enough to score." During Hockey Day Minnesota, a feature was aired on FOX Sports North in which Jablonski spoke publicly for one of the first times since his injury. There was no tinge of bitterness in his voice, no sadness when he spoke. Instead, Jablonski sounds determined to keep fighting, encouraged by the outpouring of support he's received. "I don't want people to tell me, 'Alright, you're supposed to do this at this time,' or, 'You're never going to do this again,'" Jablonski said. "This injury's so rare that no one knows exactly what I can and can't do." Jablonski also held no ill will toward the Wayzata player that hit him from behind on that fateful night. "I felt bad for him," Jablonski said. "But I just want him to know don't hang your head or anything because it was not your fault, really." Jablonski has a goal to return to school for the beginning of his junior year this fall. He also hopes to remain close to his Benilde-St. Margaret's hockey team, spending time around the game he loved. "I could care less if I can walk as long as I can skate again. And I will skate," Jablonski said. "I want to get back in a Red Knight jersey, and I will. I don't care how far down the road it is, but I will skate and that is my goal." As Jack Jablonski continues to fight, he'll have the entire hockey community on his side. "He's just been a beautiful son. I can't really say much more of how proud I am of him," Mike Jablonski said. "He's going to make it through. His dream always has been to be an NHL player. Maybe we might have to refocus some of those dreams, but whatever his dreams are, he'll achieve those dreams." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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