In Defense Of Mike Liambas

Did you see the hit by Mike Liambas on Ben Fanelli in the OHL game between the Erie Otters and Kitchener Rangers? If not, watch it on YouTube, make a personal gut check and continue reading…

I saw a hard body check and a tragic, fluke result.

Liambas didn’t leave his feet and he didn’t hit Fanelli from behind. I didn’t see an elbow either. Picking up speed equals intent to injure? I guess one can claim that … if one is a mind reader. An intentional hit to the head? No. At the speed Liambas was moving and the way Fanelli was spinning, intentially hitting him in the head was virtually impossible.

At worst it was a five-minute charging major. Checking, charging… what’s the difference? I’ll tell you the difference: If the hittee isn’t hurt, then it’s a good hard check. If he stays down, then it was obviously a penalty. Soccer players know all about this principle.

Yeah, Liambas picked up speed, zeroed in and tried to check Fanelli hard … just like what happens once or twice a period, in every game, in every league, in every hockey country in the world (except Sweden). Want to call Liambas’ hit “intent to injure”? Then we should call all the near misses “intent to injure” as well. Rest assured, Liambas is being punished for the results, not for his actions.

Yes I understand, whatever Liambas’ intentions were or weren’t, someone was hurt and in our society that means someone must be punished. Justice must be blind, I get it. But there is NO reason why public opinion must also be blind.

This is called dogpiling and skapegoating. Grow a frontal cortex and think it through, people.

Much easier to scapegoat Liambas than chalk it up as a consequence of the speed and physicality of the game of hockey. Much easier to blame a marginal player than question whether 20 year old men should be playing alongside 16 year old boys.

Where is the outrage at the fact that players have kevlar weapons strapped to their shoulders and elbows? I guarantee you, if players aren’t outfitted in all that body armour, they won’t feel so gung-ho about flying around at high speeds. Give them foam elbow pads and foam shoulder pads and watch the head injuries drop by 75%, guaranteed.

If Fanelli gets right up, Liambas doesn’t even get assessed a major. If Fanelli gets right up, the check is celebrated and makes Top Hilight of the nightly sportscast.

This is hockey. The players move faster than a man can run. They carry hooked clubs and shoot an object heavier and harder than a baseball at 100 miles an hour in all directions. And, they have KNIVES strapped to their feet. Add to this a slippery playing surface as hard as cement, surrounding by boards and plexiglass with little give. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Maybe the problem is bigger than Mike Liambas. Maybe the game needs to slow down. OR …maybe fans AND media need to pull their heads out of the ground and accept the fact that hockey can be a very dangerous sport. (HINT, that’s exactly what makes it so damn exciting. Like auto-racing. Or MMA.)

It was a very hard bodycheck that ended in a tragic, fluke injury.

One last thing, the MOST important thing … pray for Ben Fanelli. He’s just a kid. Everyone pray for his full recovery. Even if you don’t believe in prayer, take the time to do it anyway. It can’t hurt. Please, just do it.

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