Karine Jean-Pierre
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Jack Jablonski, Hockey Legend Turned Media Pro, Comes Out as Gay

Jack Jablonski

Jack Jablonski, who was a legendary high school hockey player in Minnesota and now works for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, has come out as gay.

Jablonski came out Wednesday in a tweet and an interview with The Athletic. “I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m happy and excited about the future,” he told the publication. “I’m finally being true to myself, having finally come to grips with who I am. It feels great to be able to be myself and not have to worry about hiding in the shadows.”

Jablonski was a multisport athlete in his school days in St. Louis Park, Minn. He particularly excelled in hockey, but his playing days ended when he was paralyzed in an accident on the hockey rink 11 years ago, when he was 16. A collision with another player sent him crashing to the ice, and he suffered two fractured vertebrae and a severed spinal cord. He has used a wheelchair since then.

He stayed in sports, though. He interned with the Kings while he was attending the University of Southern California, and he joined the team’s communications department after graduating. He is a digital media content specialist, contributes to podcasts, does a web series, and appears on broadcasts. He also coaches the Kings’ junior team. He hopes for an executive job with an NHL team eventually.

He had thoughts about being gay as far back as his teens but tried to suppress his feelings. “At 14, 15, my friend group, stereotypically, was your typical jocks and masculine athletes,” he told The Athletic. “So for me, when you have those curiosities or conflicting things in your head, or just not understanding at the time, you’re just like, ‘Nah, whatever. It’s a phase or I’ll get over it or there’s no way.’ I was just like, ‘Well, there’s no way it’s true I’m gay. I’m a four-sport athlete. I have no stereotypical interests in anything that is perceived as quote-unquote gay. I’m not into any of that. I’m masculine.’” He didn’t know anyone who was gay, so there was no one he could discuss the matter with.

After his accident, he focused on adjusting to life in a wheelchair. “Everything just got pushed to the back burner for the longest time,” he said in the interview. “It just became denial and ignorance.”

He finally had to confront his feelings during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL ceased activities in March 2020. Living in Hermosa Beach, an L.A. suburb far from his friends and family, Jablonski became extremely depressed and even thought about wheeling his chair into the path of a moving car.

An online conversation with Luke Prokop, a prospect for the NHL’s Nashville Predators who now plays for the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings, helped turn things around. Jablonski sent Prokop a direct message on Instagram in the summer of 2021, when Prokop had just come out as gay. Prokop responded and was supportive.

“Whether he knows it or not, Luke Prokop was huge for me,” Jablonski said. “I opened up and talked to him. I asked him a bunch of questions and picked his brain on how everything went for him, and he was nothing but complimentary of everyone, especially how the Predators treated him, which made me feel a lot better.”

Jabonski then contacted his best friend from his school years, Zack Hale, who now teaches high school in Virginia. Hale said that Jablonski’s being gay made no difference to him, adding that he thought Jablonski’s other friends and family would feel the same way.

Then in August 2021, Jablonski came out to his parents, Mike and Leslie Jabonski, when they were visiting California. They were surprised but accepting. His brother, Max, had a similar reaction when Jablonski told him via FaceTime.

Now Jablonski is also out to Kings executives and colleagues and is receiving support from them. He is continuing to raise funds through his Jack Jablonski Foundation to fund research on spinal cord injuries. He’s never been in a romantic relationship but is open to the idea.

“I’m not looking for marriage next week,” he said. “I’m looking for the ability to move forward in life professionally, emotionally, personally, privately and just being able to be who I want to be. Because of my past, I feel the best way to go about that is just telling everyone.”

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