OHL was right to suspend Liambas

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Admits my little hissy fit at the Habs, I forgot to write something up about the suspension of Michael Liambas for his hit on Ben Fanelli. I wrote a very brief thing condemning the hit on the Kitchener Rangers' forward. The other day, OHL commissioner David Branch took a step in what I thin is a positive direction, by suspending Liambas for the season as well as any playoff games that his team might play in.

After the hit was aired and numerous news stations, I was surprised that most people saw nothing wrong with the net. Everyone agreed that it was legal, while some did acknowledged that it was dirty. Most said Fanelli should have done a better job to protect himself.  Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with this reaction. I was even less impressed when many called Liambas' suspension "too harsh".

Look, I get that Fanelli turned away, did not have his helmet properly secured and all that. I do not believe for a second that Liambas intended to seriously injure Fanelli. But this was not a freak accident like the puck hitting Fanelli's head or a skate slashing him. Liambas went full out at Fanelli and he could not have stopped even if he wanted to. The intent to hit Fanelli was there.

I'm not just blaming Liambas here. I think the problem runs deeper than this single hit. When over half of my twitter feed - filled with "normal" fans like me - actually say that Branch was wrong to hand down such a harsh "sentence" on Liambas, then there's a deeper issue. We're creating a hockey culture that endorses serious injuries. That would take too long to get into here, but I believe Branch was right to stand up for his players.

I wish the NHL would follow suit.  Bettman and Colin Campbell should not be standing aside while their players get concussion due to dangerous hits. As I said in my earlier blog post about this, the NHL should be setting an example for the rest of the leagues in North America. All other levels of hockey look to the NHL as their role model. I'm pretty sure if Campbell had decided to suspend Richards or Ladd for their hits on Booth and D'Agostini respectively, then there would be not be as big an uproar against Liambas' suspension.


Grrrreg said...

Hmmm, I'm not so thrilled about this. I obviously don't like the hit, and therefore, it's right that he got suspended. But at the same time, it's a little weird to admit he didn't intend to injure the other player, and yet to suspend him for so long (ending his career in the ohl in the process). I completely agree with your argument that there's a culture of recklessness that needs to be changed in hockey. But I wonder if it's the right way to do so. I have no answer actually. It's a good thing to send the message that it's not acceptable to run a player and to injure him because you don't care about the consequences of your hits. That's ok. But this suspension makes it look like it's a really exceptional play, a rare incident. It is because the injuries were worse than usual, but the hit was not that different from what we see very often, without harsh penalties and suspensions. What I mean is, it's punishing the injury, not the hit, and that's not really good either. But I know there's no easy solution.

Grrrreg said...

Damn, I had not finished to write that comment. I'm sorry if this is a little confuse, but I'm not really sure how exactly I feel about all this.

Eternal Pessimist said...

I think know what you're saying. If Fanelli had not sustained such serious injuries, would they have suspended Liambas at all even? Branch did say that he also took into account that Liambas was going full out too though. But you're right, it comes off "oh this is an exceptional injury that got lots of press. Let's look like we're doinh something".

For me though, I feel that it was the right thing. The intent to hit Fanelli was there. Obviously Liambas didn't mean to send him to the hospital with serious injuries. But the intent to hit was there and he should be held accountable for the outcome of the hit. It wasn't a freak accident but a deliberate act. Whether the hit itself was dubbed "clean", the outcome remains that Fanelli suffered serious injuries because of it (I think it also raises the question of whether 20 year olds should be playing with 16 year olds. I know the CHL allows only three 20 year olds per team, but there is a huge difference in maturity (I'm talking physical here). A 16 may be almost fully grown height wise, but in terms of bone and muscle development, they are no where near the same level as a 20 year old).

I was saying in the case the Richards' hit, that it shouldn't matter what the hell he used to hit Booth. If it had been an elbow, Richards would have been suspended probably. But because it was with his shoulder, it was dubbed a "clean hit". The idea of "clean" needs to change. There is nothing clean about hitting someone on the head and concussing them.

I'm not saying take hitting out of the game, but when the intent to hit someone is clearly there and they cause an injury - accident or not - they should be held responsible for the outcome.

Whether Branch really intends to protect his players remains to be seen the next time someone gets injured. But right now, I appreciate the effort.

skinnyandme said...

He cannot protect hockey players from freak accidents!! It happens constantly and that's what this is. Liambas was the sacrificial lamb so Branch can feel like he took an aggressive approach to this situation. I hope Liambas gets some great offers from the pros who know that hockey is an aggressive sport and no one can predict these freak accidents.

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