The story of the Benilde-St. Margaret's boys' hockey team ended in dramatic, storybook fashion Saturday when the Red Knights, at the end of an emotionally trying season during which teammate Jack Jablonski was paralyzed during a junior varsity game, won the Class 2A state title behind senior Grant Besse's five goals.
The residual chatter about the game, however, hasn't been about Besse's standout performance. It has instead circled back to the story of Jablonski, which has permeated so much of the season.
The big questions on the minds of many readers and hockey fans: Should Jablonski have been on the ice for the postgame awards ceremony -- and should he have received an official state championship medal?
As you might know, he was not on the ice. The Minnesota State High School League, which ran the tournament, explained its policy to the Star Tribune on Saturday: Jablonski was not on the roster and was therefore not eligible to be on the ice for the ceremony.
MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead expanded on that Monday, issuing this statement:
A number of people have asked questions about why Jack Jablonski was not on the ice for the award ceremony on Saturday night. Jack was not listed as a member of the official roster, but the League staff worked directly with the school and the coaching staff to ensure that Jack could be an important part of his school team before and following each game.
Championship medals are awarded to each member of the team, team managers and coaches. A school can also request additional medals for players, and we accommodate all teams in all sports to ensure that their needs are appropriately addressed in a timely manner.
In order to make sure the $2 million Lifetime Catastrophic Insurance policy the League purchases for each athlete was not at risk, the League's insurance carrier was contacted. I was informed that if an accident of any type would have occurred, the insurance claim may well have been jeopardized.
The MSHSL joins everyone in Minnesota and beyond in wishing Jack all the best in the future.
Benilde-St. Margaret's head coach Ken Pauly said Monday that he and the MSHSL worked well together on a plan during the tournament to have Jablonski able to visit the team in the locker room before and after games. The notion of what might happen after a championship game, Pauly said, never came up -- partially because the idea of BSM, unseeded going into the tournament, winning it all would be a "big assumption," the coach said.
In retrospect, Pauly said, it would have been nice to have Jablonski be a part of the post-game ceremony at ice level in some form, but he was not specifically aware of the liability issues.
"If you look at it, after the trophies were awarded – and out of respect to Hill-Murray allow them to leave as a team – I think it would have been a better plan to get him out there a little bit," Pauly said. "I think that would have been fun. And a lot of people stuck around to see him, and I feel for them."
It's hardly as though Jablonski was ignored, however. He watched the game from a suite, visited teammates in the locker room after the game and was given the state championship trophy to bring home. Pauly said Jablonski will receive a medal as well.
And, the coach noted, the private moment in the locker room was plenty special to Pauly and the BSM players.
"Us having that private moment in the locker room at the end of the game was a chance to be back together as a team alone away from the cameras," he said.
For now, the ceremony question lingers. What do you think? In this case, is a rule a rule ... or was it worth whatever risk might have been there to bend the rule in this case?