Not to say I don’t feel sorry for Ben Fanelli after taking a monster hit from Michael Liambas. Fractured skull, fractured orbital bone, lacerations on his face. Large blood loss on the ice from having hit his head on the metal stanchion along the glass. He wasn’t even able to breathe on his own until the day after the hit.
Yesterday, we learned that OHL Commissioner David Branch has suspended Liambas for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. At age 20, Liambas’ junior career is effectively over.
I’m not sure the suspension is warranted. Let’s break down the video:
- Liambas never leaves his feet. There is certainly a lot of ice covered before he hits Fanelli, but at worst, it is a boarding or charging call. His last stride is just below the face off dot.
- Fanelli’s goalie created a screen. Try watching the video and imagine seeing what Fanelli saw before he gets hit. I’m not sure he even saw Liambas coming, since he was too busy reversing the puck the other way. The goalie inadvertently creates a screen and Fanelli never has a chance to protect himself. Was Fanelli thinking that Liambas would not run the goalie so it should have been a pick play?
- Fanelli does not appear to have situational awareness. Stop the video at the six second mark. Look at where Fanelli is as he skates towards the puck which his goalie has stopped. He should have seen Liambas on his right side.
- Reversing the puck. At the eight second mark, you’ll see Fanelli almost over-skate the puck so it is in his skates. He has to look straight down to find it again, and then reverses it the other way. By this time, Liambas is right on top of him. Of course in order for him to reverse the puck, he practically has to turn his back to Liambas. As a left hand shot, he could have backhanded it around the net and still would have been facing Liambas.
- Helmet popping off. Not sure about this, but I’m willing to guess his helmet chin strap was not done up properly. By the way, earlier media reports indicated that his helmet cracked on impact. Apparently, the helmet was intact — in fact the visor was damaged.
- Size differential. Fanelli is 6 ft, 175lbs. Liambas is 5 ft 9in, 204 lbs. All that weight, plus something called momentum. Also, Liambas is 4 years older than Fanelli. All things being equal, that’s four more years of hockey.
- Perfect storm of circumstances. Fanelli’s head is right where the stanchion sits. He reverses the puck so his back is to Liambas. Helmet pops off. Visor shatters. If this was a hit along any other part of the boards; if his helmet stays on; if Fanelli has his head up and can protect himself from the hit; if…
A short 10 game suspension, maybe, for the charging. No way I would have suspended him for the entire season. If Branch was trying to send a message to the league, he has certainly done just that.
Stay classy, Ben Fanelli. We’re hoping for your full recovery.