Beth Shogren is striving to make the sport safer.
As her husband told her about the injury to Jack, Beth Shogren crouched on her bedroom floor, reeling as if someone had just punched her in the gut.
For years, she had shivered on metal hockey arena bleachers, worrying about her sons as players drove each other into the boards. Now, the worst had happened to her son's former teammate. She felt awful for his family and she panicked. That could have been her son.
She snapped at her husband: We're pulling our kids out of hockey right now.
That's ridiculous, Mike said. We can't do that.
She paced in front of him, crying. We can't be sure that they'll be safe.
Mike was quiet. He grew up playing hockey and had cheered their son Bobby's toughness, his ability to take hard hits on the ice, even after breaking his collarbone doing it. But Beth grew up in California and didn't love it like he did.
She looked at him: What are we going to do?
We have to change the game, he said.
He learned from other board members of the Minneapolis Hockey Association, where he was a vice president, that similar conversations were going on in other homes. Within days, the group launched Jack's Pledge, a vow to coach and play safer hockey. They also lobbied the state's youth hockey organization to strengthen penalties for hits considered especially dangerous, just as the Minnesota State High School League had done.
But now, a season later, worry is creeping back. Beth implored other parents to help keep the game safer, to complain when bad checks aren't called and to admonish fans who cheer violence.
"Enough time has passed where people sort of slide into their same old behavior," she said. "The parents have the power to effect change."
Beth keeps shuttling her sons to the rink for now.
Outside a Minneapolis ice arena this fall, she wrapped her arms around 14-year-old Nat and squeezed him tight. It was his first year of playing hockey with checking. "Be careful," she said.
She left the rink before practice started, too nervous to watch.