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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?
It's championship day in high school hockey - St. Thomas Academy vs. Hermantown at noon, Hill-Murray vs. Benilde St. Margaret's at 7. It's also a big weekend for conference college basketball championships, as anyone who watched the Gophers drop yet another heartbreaker last night knows. Watching the two of these side-by-side this year has made me realize that, for all of its flaws and foibles, and for as much as I've complained about it in the past, I actually like the way the Minnesota State High School League does the playoffs.
I have, in the past, sneered at the "everybody-gets-a-trophy" style of tournament. Some people are still miffed about having two classes for hockey, or four classes for basketball, or seven now for football. Thinking about this, though, I can't remember who I was sneering at. When I was a senior in high school, and again when I was a sophomore in college, my high school went to state in boys' basketball, which traditionally is the most popular sport in Ortonville. As the entire town lined up outside the city limits to welcome the team bus back home, or as the town emptied on the day of the tourney so that everyone could make the drive to the Cities, I don't remember anybody thinking, "Well, this is fun, but it's sort of a joke because there's four classes for basketball now, not two like when we went in '82." I like the idea that as many kids, and parents, and small no-stoplight towns like mine, get that experience as possible.
I've also complained about the fact that virtually everyone makes the playoffs in every sport. This does lead to some serious wallopings, especially in hockey; you can count on seeing scores like 14-0 and 26-1 in the first round of the playoffs every year. But the good thing about doing this is that it eliminates the smoke-filled back room where section administrators have to decide who's in and who's out in the playoffs. Tomorrow night, the NCAA Men's Basketball Selection Committee will sit down and ruin the Big Dance dreams of teams across the country. Not even one-quarter of the eligible teams will make the tournament; I can't imagine high school administrators having to cut the playoffs down to the same level. There'd be wild controversy throughout Minnesota. The argument against this would be to note that 15 of the 16 section No. 1 seeds in hockey made it to the state tournament, so it's not like section administrators would have had hard decisions to make. That said, the lone outlier - Benilde-St. Margaret's - was the third seed in their section, and they're in the state title game tonight.
Sure, the big-tent, multiple-class tournament system is unwieldy and overlarge. But it's fun. It's fun for as many athletes, parents, students, and schools as possible. And really, isn't that what this is supposed to be about?
On with the links:
*Tim Allen of Canis Hoopus went to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and has a recap of what he heard. It's long, but it's interesting for those of us who A) like sports research and B) couldn't think of a good enough reason to spend all of that money to go.
*SB Nation has started its own YouTube channel, which leads to videos like this one, where Matt Ufford goes to curling nationals and discovers the exact same things that everyone discovers when they go curling for a story. However, he also has an interview with Minnesota's Pete Fenson, long a nationally recognized curling powerhouse, and he found out something else interesting: Pete Fenson seems like no fun whatsoever.
*According to an ESPN survey, professional soccer is now the second-favorite sport of 12-to-24 year olds. More of these kids are avid fans of international soccer than of the MLS. This link is brought to you by my long-running campaign to remind you that soccer is not potentially a major sport in America in the future because it is a major sport in America already.
*And finally: I suppose that homophobia in professional sports might never completely go away, just in the same way that racism lingers. That said, the tide feels like it's turning, helped in part by campaigns like the Burke family's You Can Play campaign. I encourage you to read, and watch the video.
A few folks were tweeting about footage from the famous championship game between Milan and Muncie Central being released by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, so we went to have a look-see. The video is predictably grainy, but that only adds to the awesome-ness of it.
We are not like that. Nor is Local Quipster, a noted Friend of RandBall. Let that be the backdrop, then, for something we would like to refer to as the Great Treadmill Race Controversy. We will attempt to lay out the facts and even admit culpability in one area. But in the end, we are pretty sure you will feel the same way we do.
So: We made an appointment last night to run at the Target Center LTF with Local Quipster. The game plan was to meet after work, run, and then watch the Sugar Bowl. LQ upped the ante by throwing down a six-mile treadmill race challenge.
Unfortunately, we were late getting out of work (our fault). We quickly shifted the plan to meet at the treadmills. We fully expected LQ to start first since he had to run home between the workout and the game.
Upon arrival, we found LQ was about 15 minutes into his run. No worries, we figured. These machines are not going anywhere. They are self-timed. We are not making anyone with a stopwatch or cups of water wait any longer if we start at a different time. So we hop on the treadmill, calculate LQ's pace and immediately set a slightly faster pace. We were pushing it -- for us, anyway -- but even within this ridiculous competition we wanted to win.
Around the time LQ hit 4.5 miles, we were around 3 miles. He looks over and says something like, "You better start moving or you're never going to catch me." We replied, "What do you mean, we're already ahead of you." He replied to the effect of, "All I know is that I'm at 4.5 miles and you're at 3. First one to 6 wins."
Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's crazy. In fact, a good 80 percent of us was pretty sure LQ was just trying to mess with our head. But still, for the final 1.5 miles, he could talk about nothing except his impending victory, how it wasn't his fault we showed up later than expected, etc. Our counter was basic logic: That the person who finished six miles in the fastest time should be the winner and that such a ground rule -- while never made explicit -- was at least implicit and any waiver would have needed to be agreed upon before competition began.
Still, LQ finished -- in 51 minutes, 51 seconds -- hopped off the treadmill, declared victory, even asked a nearby woman on an elliptical which one of us appeared to be done while the other was still running, then left. We finished a little while later -- in 50 minutes, 32 seconds -- also smugly assured of victory. Neither one of us has permanently acquiesced since, although LQ did slip up later last night in saying "when you beat me," before quickly demanding that the remarks be stricken from the record.
What we ask of you, dear reader, is not to solve this race dilemma. We're pretty sure it is not a question that needs solving. Rather, we ask:
1) Are you still so ridiculously competitive that you would do something like this, and if so would you be so kind as to provide an example in the comments?
2) Is there something wrong with us?
Exactly four people have sent us this link. And now you get to watch it as well. Awesome.