Thursday, November 5, 2009

One year for almost ending one life.

OHL Commissioner David Branch has ordered the suspension of Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas for the entire season and playoffs after his hit on Kitchener’s Ben Fanelli last Friday. This suspension effectively ends the junior hockey career of Liambas since he is a 20 year old player.

While the collision was brutal and the resulting fractured skull and orbital bone of Fanelli are worse than brutal, some argue the suspension is too tough since it was not a dirty hit and these types of hits are a part of hockey.

I am not one of those people. The hit clearly met the exact description of charging and the resulting discipline by Branch is completely in keeping with the severity of the injury. That is the key here. The injury and the placement of the injury is a documented part of punishment.

I do not have an OHL rule book in my office, but the NHL rule book I am staring at must be very close or exactly the same.

Rule 43.1
“A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any player. Charging shall mean the actions of the player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice”

That is the general description. Here is where the rubber hits the road.

Rule 43.3
“The referee, at his discretion, may assess a minor penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check, to a player guilty of charging an opponent.

This is the part that brings the injury into the equation.

Rule 43.5
“When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.”

So injury and the severity of it is a part of the penalty. As you can see next, it is also a clear part of the supplementary discipline.

Rule 43.6
“When a major penalty and a game misconduct is assessed for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, an automatic fine of one hundred dollars shall be imposed. If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.”

Again, I am not sure the OHL rule book reads exactly the same, but I would be surprised if it did not.

Charging occurred here. The violence level was off the chart. There was extreme injury to the face and head of the victim and I would contend that a one year suspension is entirely appropriate based on the degree of injury.

You can debate whether this is just a tough hockey hit gone bad or whether this type of thing happens all the time and thus the suspension is too tough. You can blame the victim because a 16 year old kid turned the wrong way at the last moment.

The fact is this meets every and all the criteria for a penalty and a suspension and the only debate is, should a 20 year old energy player lose the rest of his junior hockey career for almost ending the life of a 16 year old rookie.

I do not accept the argument that he didn’t mean to hurt the kid. That has never held any weight with me in this case or the Bertuzzi case or any of the others. It’s almost a Clintonism. Of coarse he didn’t mean to fracture his skull but he did intend to hurt him. He just wasn’t concerned how serious the injury he inflicted would be. That lack of concern or what some people term a lack of respect is something that is rampant at all levels of hockey now because that’s the way we teach players to play. Coaches no longer admonish their own players for dirty or dangerous behavior. They simply rely on the on-ice officials to do it. If they ref didn’t think it was dirty or dangerous how could it be dirty or dangerous?

The only way to have respect is to be taught respect and that is something coaches no longer do.

See you at the rink.


Hitler in Paris said...

20 year old thug playing in the
same League as a 16 year old

Shit's gonna happen.

Time to make it a League for 18 and 19 year olds ONLY

Anonymous said...

Good comments, Dean. Completely agree.

Sportsmanship is about respect. You play hard, but with respect. Even combat sports like Karate or Jiu-Jitsu know about this.

You can have a tough game, built around respect. The fighters in hockey respect one another. One can debate the merits of fighting, but the individuals involved are generally respectful. They even ask "you wanna go?"

As for hitting, you obviously can't ask. But, you can be conscious of your own body and the damage that it can do to a player in a vulnerable position.

It's a fine line, but David Branch "gets it", in my books. That's leadership. Many other people do not have his courage. They get stuck on "where do you draw the line". Branch drew the line. I think he got it right.

In my view, the NHL should outsource supplementary discipline to David Branch. Colin Campbell doesn't "get it". He gets stuck on "it's a fine line." He doesn't realize that he's paid to draw it.

Kal Cole said...

RE: "the resulting discipline by Branch is completely in keeping with the severity of the injury"

But Dean, the NHL and OHL (before Branch took over) repeatedly said they do not punish based on the "blood or stretcher" factor. Rather, they punish the act.

So if Fanelli takes the same hit over and gets back up, Liambis should still be banned for the season??

Yes, the hit was borderline clean but we see these types of hit every game nowadays.

Following your logic, Olli Jokkinen should be blacklisted for life from the NHL. After all he did cut Richard Zednick's neck open, early February of last year. I'm sure he didn't mean to and he's sorry and all but it doesnt matter. He did almost kill a fellow player and should be held responsible for his actions...accidental or not.
What the OHL is doing here is the equivalent of this:
Having a $10,000 fine for going 10KMH over the speed. And so the police only need to catch about 1-2 speeders a month to fill their coffers and set an example!

If Branch is trying to send a message to parents that his league is tough on violence. He should enforce his iron fist on every single instance when these "borderline clean" hits EVERY SINGLE TIME they happen! Sure the OHL would be safe but it would run out of players.

Instead he's making a 20year-old pay with a hefty, headling-grabbing suspension.
Who's the real bully here?

Nicklas Belic said...

So Mr brown,

According to your arguement, Pat Kaleta should be banished from the NHL too? Should he get an examplary 80-game suspension?
See the hit at

The hits are the same but the results are different as Ross did get up after the play.

I usually like you POV's but in this instance I dont think I follow your logic.