Despite a life-changing injury, Jack Jablonski, once a promising young hockey player, is living proof that if you put the work in & believe, you can defeat the odds. Lisa Hillary catches up w/ the USC grad who now works for the LA Kings media staff
- Well, 10 years ago, a hit on the ice changed Jack Jablonski's life forever. The native of Minnesota was driven face first into the boards in a high school game. The injury left the now 25-year-old in a wheelchair. But despite the doctor's prognosis, Jablonski is living proof that if you believe and you put in the work, you can overcome anything. Here's Lisa Hillary.
LISA HILLARY: Growing up in Minnesota, Jack Jablonski dreamed of playing in the NHL.
Jack, your favorite player growing up in the NHL?
JACK JABLONSKI: Pavel Datsyuk. It's his creativity and his ability to be unpredictable on the ice.
LISA HILLARY: And Jack was well on his way to the big league.
[MUSIC PLAYING] He was going to play in the big league.
LISA HILLARY: As a freshman in high school, he scored 50 goals.
Was it in high school that you really realized your true potential, and that, hey, you know, the-- the NHL is a realistic goal for me?
JACK JABLONSKI: And I kind of realized that I had a future in hockey. I knew that it wasn't going to be an easy one. It was going to be a long journey making my way to where I wanted to be. But you know, the NHL is obviously a dream that every kid grows up wanting to accomplish. And you know, I wouldn't say it was impossible by any means to get there. It was just going to take a lot of hard work.
LISA HILLARY: On December 30, 2011, now a sophomore in high school, Jack's life changed forever.
Take us back to that play, December of 2011. What do you remember?
JACK JABLONSKI: Well I had scored the first goal earlier in the game. And you know, it was the championship game. And we're tied in the third period. And I went down on a 2 on 2.
As I went by the first defender, the other man cut me off. So I tried to turn around to-- to make a pass. And unfortunately, the defender that I had gotten by and another player simultaneously hit me into the boards. And I went headfirst, ended up breaking my C5 and C6 vertebrae and severing my spinal cord completely.
LISA HILLARY: Jack took us along for one of his physical therapy sessions. Twice a week for nearly two hours, the 25-year-old works on his strength and mobility.
We're coming up on almost 10 years.
JACK JABLONSKI: Yep.
LISA HILLARY: How far have you come since that fateful day?
JACK JABLONSKI: A long, long ways. You know, the doctors told me I was probably never going to be able to move the left side of my body, and I'd be lucky to be able to bend my right arm. Within a week, I was proving them wrong and able to bend my right arm and hit my younger brother. And nowadays, I'm able to activate muscles in the lower part of my body. I can obviously move both of my arms, and have coordination to try to be as independent as possible.
You know, it was a lot of dark days early on. But you know, the support within the hockey community is something that I'm extremely thankful and grateful for. And I don't know where I would be without them.
LISA HILLARY: Four years after the accident, Jack moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles. He enrolled at USC to pursue journalism.
You're living at the beach. You're not playing in the NHL, but you work for the NHL, for the Los Angeles Kings.
JACK JABLONSKI: --a little bit more offensively talented.
LISA HILLARY: Tell us about your role there, Jack.
JACK JABLONSKI: For someone who obviously had the dreams of being a part of an NHL organization on the ice and had that taken away, you know, to still be able to be a part of an NHL organization and cover the team, write about them, talk about them on TV and in podcasts, it's a dream come true.
LISA HILLARY: You seem to have a very positive outlook and the future is bright.
JACK JABLONSKI: Absolutely. Being able to continue to live my dream and have the opportunity to make a difference and have a voice in the community for paralysis research and continue to try to be someone that is a little bit of an inspiration to help anyone's day out.
- A lot of inspiration. What an incredible story, an incredible spirit.