A scary incident on Friday night has left one player in critical condition and another suspended indefinitely and apparently beside himself in grief. Kitchener Rangers rookie Ben Fanelli was taken to hospital after what you are about to see:
I feel awful for Fanelli and even more so for his parents who were in attendance that night. Obviously no one wants to see anyone injured let alone sustain injuries of that magnitude.
I do have some question about the hit though and have to wonder how illegal it really was. At the risk of sounding insensitive... I'm not sure that it was a penalty let alone something that should have Michael Liambas on indefinite suspension.
Am I the only one that sees Fanelli turning his back to an oncoming forechecker as he makes a reverse pass? I have to wonder what the end result of that hit would have been had Fanelli simply met Liambas facing forward - surely he would have been hit, and hard, but injured? Liambas is clearly lining up to deliver a hit but I don't see an elbow up, he springs upwards but I don't see a "jump", and he would have hit Finelli square in the chest if that chest hadn't suddenly rotated.
It's just my opinion but to me the severity of the blow comes from (A) Fanelli not recognizing that a player is driving towards him (0:43 of the video clearly shows he is just playing the puck and isn't aware of the forecheck) and (B) He pivots on one skate as he makes the pass leaving him turned completely the wrong way and off balance for a hit which (C) his body isn't prepared to absorb the impact of.
Liambas is listed at 5'9 and 204 lbs. and I wonder if its possible that the Kitchener goalie (Brandon Maxwell) who is returning to his crease after leaving the puck behind the net, if he blocks Finelli's view of the oncoming Erie forward.
I'm not suggesting that this was one of those plays where you can say "hey, he deserved it.. he was watching his pass" because I don't think that's the case at all. Fanelli is making a routine play, almost casually sending the puck back the way he came to start the breakout, I'm sure he's makes that play a dozen times a night. He didn't make a mistake here is what I'm trying to make clear... I just don't know that Liambas did either.
Last year Liambas (photo) was named the Erie Otters Humanitarian of the Year and Most Determined Player. I've never met or talked to the player before nor have I had a conversation about him with any scout, player, coach, GM or other media guy.
Reading the comments on the various youTube pages, apparently Liambas has a history of dirty play and for all I know, that may be true. He could be the biggest goon in the OHL this season but even if he is... I'm not sure that he's guilty of a dirty play here. An attempt at a devastating hit for sure but I'm not sure that I can fault him for not being able to stop his forward progress as his target goes from being a "valid target" to being "in a dangerous position" at the very last second.
Again, it's just my opinion and I expect that I'll be in the minority on this one but please keep the comments civil. You tell me: WAS THIS A DIRTY HIT or NOT??
(Photo Courtesy: Erie Otters)