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Disparity in size an Achilles Heel in terms of physical pain
November 4, 2009

By Wally Donaldson
The Oshawa Express

It doesn’t matter what level of hockey it may be, when the sticks come up followed by a bone-chilling thud, someone is bound to get injured.
And though it has appearingly been a regular trend on a National Hockey Leagure (NHL) level in recent times with Chicago’s Jonathon Toews and Florida’s David Booth on the sidelines as examples, the reality of a junior player whose life is in jeopardy takes on an even greater reminder of how vicious hockey has arguably become.
Defenceman Ben Fanelli, a 16-year-old freshman with the Kitchener Rangers, is in critical, yet stable condition following a thunderous check delivered by 20-year-old overager Michael Liambas of the Erie Otters last Friday night.

Fanelli’s head went hard into the glass in the end boards on a bruising hit by Liambas, sending the Kitchener player’s helmet skyward. He was airlifted to a Hamilton hospital.
“I didn’t see the hit on television and I personally don’t want to,” admitted Oshawa head coach Chris DePiero following Sunday’s Ontario Hockey League (OHL) contest at GM Centre. “With the holdups you used to do in the old days, those big hits weren’t there as much. But the boys are bigger now and when they come around the net, they have to be prepared to be hit.
“I think the disparity in our league is the size difference. You have a 19-year-old who physically is a man and you look at Fanelli who is still a young kid. You can see the difference there.”
Belleville Bulls’ head coach George Burnett concurs, despite also not having seen a replay of the hit.
“I can see it (happening) in the NHL, but I think we’re miles ahead of where we’re at with respect to the emphasis and importance of head hits and I think our league has been a forefront in dealing with them in quite some time,” says Burnett, a former NHL coach with the Edmonton Oilers during the mid-90s.
“You’d think the game has gone back a couple of decades when you see the things going on in the NHL. However, I really don’t see that with our league.
“The speed of the game has changed and the size of players are to a point where some shoulders are head height. I think that the buildings have changed from the original (NHL) ones. They’re not those old boards that used to wave back and forth. They’re more like concrete walls and that can make a difference when one player takes another heavily into those boards.”

As for anything to do with a suspension, OHL commissioner David Branch told the Fan 590 there is a process to be followed which begins with the constant care of Fanelli’s progress to any penalty that may be assessed to Liambas.
“You look at any history of a player that’s involved in a situation like this and we look at his previous time in the OHL and on all levels of his hockey career. We will meet with the Kitchener coaching staff and similarly we will deal with the training staff of the Kitchener Rangers. We’ll obviously talk with Erie officials and Michael Liambis.
“In a serious situation like this, you want to make sure you gather as much important information as you can to assist in the determination of where we go from here,” said Branch on the morning show.





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