MINNEAPOLIS - Max Jablonski can't help be impressed with the 32 NHL Jerseys delivered to his brother's hospital rooms over the past few weeks. The phone call from Wayne Gretzky wasn't bad either.
It's a call Max answered himself, and will never forget. "He said, 'Is this the phone of Jack Jablonski's brother? This is Wayne Gretzky.' When you hear that, it's like wow, is this a dream."
Sometimes dreams are what we need to help us through a nightmare. Max's 16-year-old brother Jack, a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margarets, was paralyzed during a high school junior varsity hockey game in December.
While Jack recuperates at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, he continues to be on the receiving end of gifts, visits from professional athletes and other shows of support from around the world.
On Thursday a hand-written letter, American flag and signed t-shirt from Naval Special Forces in Afghanistan arrived for Jack.
He's already serving as temporary guardian of two Hobey Baker awards, college hockey's MVP trophy, dropped off by Robb Stauber and Jordan Leopold.
"How do you thank everybody for what they've done? It's just unbelievable," says Leslie Jablonski, Jack's mother. She believes the outpouring of support has helped push Jack beyond early expectations in his physical therapy. "He knows he's being watched. He just wants to prove to everybody he's going to do as much as he can."
Jack's story is about to reach an even larger audience. His parents say a Sports Illustrated reporter and photographer will be spending time with Jack this week for an upcoming article.
The overseers of hockey at both the youth and high school level gave Jack a boost too, when they voted to increase the penalties for the type of check that sent Jack headfirst into the boards.
"I like the rule changes a lot, I agree with them," said Jack, "it's just that I didn't want to be the reason that we have that rule change."
Jack's family believes attitudinal changes may already be taking place. "Parents have been commenting on how they've already noticed a big difference in the game and the way it's being played and they really attribute it to Jack and what happened," said Leslie Jablonski.
Already regaining strength in his shoulders and some use of his arms, Jack remains optimistic. "My goal is to walk and skate again obviously. I'm not sure if that will happen, I believe it will."
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