Monday, November 2, 2009

Dirty or Not?

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)


Johnny - BUCK75 said...

Possibly a charge, but more likely a case where proper use of the helmet might have prevented the incident from being so serious.

L. Taylor said...

Call it the perfect storm. It looks to me that on top of all you have accurately pointed out, his head bounces right off the support for the glass - temple first. Had it been a couple of feet either side, the glass would have at least had some give. Man, that is hard to watch.

doritogrande said...

I'd call it a charge, but I'm laying the Fanelli's condition completly on the fact that he's too stupid to properly secure his chin strap. Helmets don't fly off that fast if they're done up correctly, and you can clearly see from the replay that his helmet is off before his head collides with the glass.

Completely his fault that he's injured to the extent that he is.

Ghost said...

This situation is just a symptom of part of the problem with Hockey today. Poor use of helmets combined with a lack of advancements in "protective" equipment are greatly to blame. As someone who has played both Football and Rugby I can say that the impacts in Football are much worse particularly on the head because of the equipment.

Also there is the issue that while leagal, the hit was targeted towards the head/upper shoulders rather than center mass. As long as this type of hit is allowed there will be problems, Rugby has strict rules against high/dangerous tackles and Football is adapting similar measures. The NHL is still lightyears behind

Brock Otten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brock Otten said...

I pretty much agree with you here Guy, although I do think that you could call it a charge (does appear that Liambas had Fanelli in his sights for a while).

The question being, does Liambas deserve to be suspended and chastised to the extent he appears to be in the media and on message boards? I would say no for the very reasons you laid out. While IMO it was a charge, I don't think the intent was there to hit Fanelli from behind. By looking at the replay, I do think it's obvious that Fanelli turned into the boards at the wrong time and that Liambas was coming in with the intent to hit him hard straight on in order to gain possession of the puck. As L. Taylor said, it was the perfect storm.

While I think it's pretty obvious that Liambas will be suspended (both because of David Branch's initiative to eliminate head checking from the OHL, and Liambas' reputation in the league for dirty/pugilist play), I do hope that the league doesn't cave into the pressure from those calling for his head due to the extent of the injury sustained. I would say anything over 10 games would be very over reactionary and unfair. But I guess we'll see sometime this week (more than likely).

Anonymous said...

It was a very dangerous hit to the head. Isn't hits to the head now major penalties. A stupid hit made by a stupid player. He also takes a good charge into the player. Throw the book at the meat head.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm going to defend Ben Fanelli here. Going frame by frame, Fanelli's chinstrap isn't the problem. It's sufficiently secured. For those of us at the game (I was ten rows up at the end of the rink where this occurred) we can recall the image of Ben's cracked helmet being removed from the ice. I'm not a physics student, but I know two things. One, that with the degree to which helmets are safety tested and inspected, it takes considerable force to crack one open. Which means that Liambas had to exert considerable force in order to produce that result. With that much force present, it doesn't take a genius to know that the chinstrap is going to pop.
It was a charge, it was initially called on the ice as boarding. Which is a closer call, but Fanelli was moving away from the wall, which technically makes it the correct call. Given the presence of a charge and a board, both against the rules, there's no way that this could be called a "clean" hit.
True, there is no hitting from behind or elbow present but there's no rule saying that only certain penalties merit suspensions. Liambas has conducted himself similarly in the past and while I don't think he could have foreseen the extent of the injury, it seems foolish to suggest that he couldn't have anticipated that some kind of injury was going to result (see his hit on JT last season).
The rule with high sticking has always been that a player is responsible for his stick. Why is there a different standard for physicality in hockey. I believe that a charge and a board have been established, Fanelli's injury wouldn't have occurred without those actions, why should the extent of his injury not be a factor in supplemental discipline? If I take a gun, and I intend to shoot you in the shoulder but someone knocks my elbow at the last second and I shoot you in the head, I will always be charged with what I actually did. Not what I intended to do. Why are the rules any different here?

Anonymous said...

First of all I hope Fanelli has a speedy recovery. I also feel for Liambas, its a hit he has probably made a number of times and is probably encourage to make. He didn't mean to put Fanelli in hospital. Branch should suspend Liambas based on the rules at the moment of the hit.

Having said all that Liambas started to build up momentum from the red line(his coach said this) and his goal, when he saw Fanelli, seemed to be to hit him as hard as possible. This type of hit should be removed from the game, players have to respect each other's safety.

On another note there is some talk that the force of the hit caused the helmet to break and that it had nothing to do with the chin strap was done up.

Anonymous said...

No Suspension...

Just another example of players not protecting themselves. We have created a generation of players that expect the rules to protect them. Rules and suspensions don't protect players...wear your equipment properly and assume that you will be hit anytime you go back for a puck. I hate to blame the victim...but in this case it kinda fits.
It's sad but true that there is hockey management people that continue to over regulate the game. Geez... maybe if Fanelli had a stop sign stitched to the back of his jersey he would not have been hit!!!

I look forward to another OHL/David Branch political over reaction!

Guy Flaming said...

Interesting feedback everyone, my thanks and keep it coming!

- Guy

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the author, I'm not sure this was a penalty. Maybe charging or boarding, but some of the blame has to go to the injured player for putting himself in an awkward position where he couldn't protect himself. I don't see it as a dirty play and I certainly hope the injured player makes a full recovery!

hockeygod said...

Liambas shouldn't be suspended for more than 15 games. This league is turning into a joke. Branch and Baker are playing into the mob and it is embarassing to watch them make decisions based on the "refs" in the peanut gallery. The hit was clean. Horrible what happened to the kid but clean. How about the Rinaldo hit on Yogan???Yogan didn't play for almost 8 months and Rinaldo got 8 games. Very similar looking hit but also clean. Then one month later Rinaldo hits O'Riely from behind in the playoffs and gets a lesser suspension of 6 games??? Way to crack down on the hitting from behind calls!!! Instead of numbers on the back of jerseys why don't they put speedometers that way when a player is skating too fast the refs can give him a speeding penalty. Maybe the OHL can switch to the four blade skates just to slow it down a little. Hope the kid makes a full recovery but the hit was clean!

Anonymous said...

"If I take a gun, and I intend to shoot you in the shoulder but someone knocks my elbow at the last second and I shoot you in the head, I will always be charged with what I actually did. Not what I intended to do. Why are the rules any different here?"

That's a terrible analogy. If I shoot the puck and you dive in front of it, get hit in the neck and need a tracheotomy, should I be held accountable for it? According to your logic I should. After all, I "actually" hit you in the neck with a puck and I "actually" caused severe damage. We're not talking about shooting someone with a gun here. We're talking about making a hit, which is a part of the game.

What happened here is very unfortunate, no doubt. Hopefully he will make a full recovery, but that's not really the issue we're discussing.

Was it a legal hit? I'd say it was borderline. Was it hard as heck? Absolutely. The only reason that I say it is borderline is because you can definitely argue the case for a charge. If Finelli had popped back up I don't think there would have been any penalty called. The problem, as so many people have pointed out, is that Finelli turned away from the hit at the last moment and put himself in a vulnerable position. There is no elbow to the head, and there is no way Liambas could've known he was going to turn away from the hit like that. As you watch the video you can see Finelli looking up and finding Liambas as he goes behind the net to make the play. I'm sure he knew the hit was coming, even if he had his head down as he played the puck, a player at that level has the on-ice awareness to know that the hit is coming.

Should Liambas be suspended? Probably to some degree, but not for a whole season. It's a physical game and things like this are bound to happen from time to time, as unfortunate as it is.

Anyway, hopefully Finelli is able to make a full recovery.