When Jack Jablonski first fell to the rink paralyzed on the final day of 2011, it was clear that he had a long recovery ahead of him if he was to regain a normal life. Much of that recovery remains, but that hasn't stopped the teenager known simply as "Jabby" from inspiring his teammates when they needed him.
As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Associated Press and a variety of other sources, Jablonski made his first return to a hockey rink on Thursday night, just moments before his Benilde-St. Margarets (Minn.) School teammates took the ice to open the Minnesota playoffs against Victoria (Minn.) Holy Family Catholic School.
"There was this added excitement that only Jack's presence could bring," Benilde-St. Margaret's assistant coach Tom Klein told the Star Tribune. "The greatest thing about tonight is seeing the glow on Jack's face."
It's clear that Jablonski's presence was quite the inspirational start to the playoffs. B-SM went on to rout Holy Family, 7-0, cruising after head coach Ken Pauly urged his team to play smart and keep their head.
As for Jablonski, the teen -- who has steadfastly refused to criticize the player who accidentally caused his injury and refuses to accept that he will never walk again -- said that arriving back at his school's home hockey rink was like a homecoming for him.
"It's home. It's what I've grown up doing," Jablonski told the Star -Tribune. "It's second nature."
It's unknown whether Jablonski will make further appearances as the Minnesota playoffs progress. Regardless, for one night the most valuable player for a winning postseason team wasn't even on the ice.
Jablonski "wanted to be part of it" Pauly told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Clearly, he was as big a part of his team's playoff win as if he'd been on the ice the whole time.