The WIAA hockey playoffs begin Tuesday without one of the top teams from our area this season.
Last week, the Aquinas co-op went from celebrating its first ever share of a conference championship to learning they were disqualified from the postseason because of "The Jablonski Rule."
"You play your whole first season to play your second season, and that's the playoffs, and now we're not going to be able to participate," Avalanche Head Coach Tim Franzini said, who's in his 7th and final year with the team. "That's pretty tough."
The Avalanche were disqualified from the postseason for being called for three checking from behind penalties this season. The rule began in 1987, but this off-season. the National Federation of State High Schools clarified it.
"What took place was officials were calling it the way that it was supposed to be called," WIAA Assistant Director Tom Shafranski said.
Player safety in hockey became a big topic in December 2011, when a 16-year-old from the Minneapolis area named Jack Jablonski was checked from behind and paralyzed.
"In Jack's case it's too late, but it's never too late to stop this from happening in the future," Jack's mom, Leslie, said at a press conference in January 2012.
"It resulted in more attention being put towards checking from behind and more awareness and education by everyone involved with hockey, including parents, players, coaches, officials, the need to provide a safe environment in the high school game," Shafranski said.
Checking from behind is defined as hitting from behind, into the boards. The player hit has no control of themselves once the contact occurs. The question the Avalanche raise is whether the team should be penalized for the mistake of an individual.
"You can't blame a team for one individual. Nobody's going out there trying to hit somebody from behind," Avalanche senior Ryan Weber said. "To change the outcome of somebody's season, it's tough."
"It's gotta come down to the individual. It's the individual that makes the decision to hit the player," Avalanche senior Jack Anderholm said.
"As safety is looked at, team versus individual penalty is probably going to be a significant discussion," said Shafranski.
Tuesday at 6 p.m., News 8 will further examine whether the punishment fits the crime when it comes to the "Jablonski Rule." If not the team getting disqualified from the postseason, what is an appopriate penalty?