Since last Friday, Michael Liambas of the Erie Otters has awaited the league’s decision on his hit to Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ben Fanelli. Today, the OHL has come down hard on Liambas, suspending him for the regular season and playoffs, thus ending his OHL career.
League commissioner David Branch said “players must understand they shall be held accountable for their actions. We must all work towards improving the level of respect players have towards opposing players and the game in general. It is the position of the Ontario Hockey League that player Michael Liambas of the Erie Otters Hockey Club be suspended for the balance of the 2009-10 playing season including playoffs.”
The question that remains among fans are “does the punishment fit the crime” and whether or not this was “an overreaction by the league.”
One fan says “I feel very sorry for Ben Fanelli and his Family and wish him a speedy recovery. But in no way shape or form should Michael Liambas be suspended for the entire season. Fanelli turned at the last minute, Liambas had no chance to stop. And also if these junior players were made to wear there helmet with the chin strap done up tight we may not see them pop off so easy. Very bad call by the OHL Brass on this one.”
Others feel the hit would not have found the same punishment in the NHL. “It was a dangerous hit but nothing we don’t see in the NHL on a regular basis. Hockey players are getting hurt all too often by boarder line, unnecessary hits, but how can you punish an OHL player for doing what would be expected of him in the NHL? All he has to do is become a key player on a big market team and he can do that as much as he wants to.”
Another believes the league is absolutely correct and is in favor of further discipline to be treated with the same necessary force to ensure that players begin to respect each other and the rules.
But regardless, fans and players alike hope that Fanelli has a speedy recovery from his injuries.
Micheal A. Aldred