OHL suspends Erie player for entire season and playoffs

The Ontario Hockey League came down hard on Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas on Wednesday, suspending him for the entire season after a hit that left his opponent with serious head injuries.

Erie Otters' hockey player Michael Liambas

TORONTO — The Ontario Hockey League came down hard on Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas on Wednesday, suspending him for the entire season after a hit that left his opponent with serious head injuries.

Liambas was assessed a match penalty for boarding after his hit on Ben Fanelli of the Kitchener Rangers in a game last Friday.

Fanelli’s helmet flew off and he fell unconscious to the ice before he was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance. He was later airlifted to Hamilton General Hospital with skull and facial fractures.

Fanelli’s condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, but stable.

League commissioner David Branch issued a statement on the suspension after a league review.

“Players must understand they shall be held accountable for their actions,” Branch said. “We must all work towards improving the level of respect players have towards opposing players and the game in general.

“It is the position of the Ontario Hockey League that player Michael Liambas of the Erie Otters Hockey Club be suspended for the balance of the 2009-10 playing season including playoffs.”

Otters general manager Sherwood Bassin did not return a message requesting comment, but the club posted a statement on the team website and said it considered the matter closed.

“While the team regrets that this stern response was necessary … we respect the decision,” it read. “We would be remiss if we did not note in parting that Mike was a popular teammate and an able contributor to the team in his time with Erie.

“Mike is also an A-plus student with an average in the high 90s, and was a selfless contributor to and very involved with local charities in the Erie area in his time with the Otters. He is an exemplary young man and we wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Fanelli is four years younger than the 20-year-old Liambas, who has now played his last OHL game.

Rangers head coach Steve Spott says the length of the suspension was up to Branch, but believes the OHL has sent a message to the rest of the league.

“What I take out of it is players in this league are going to be held accountable for their actions,” Spott said from Kitchener. “That speaks volumes to all players in this league that the respect we have to have for all of our opponents has got to be there.”

Liambas is a five-foot-nine 200-pounder. Fanelli, who is four inches taller than Liambas but 25 pounds lighter, had one assist in seven games for the Rangers.

Fanelli’s teammates were informed of his upgraded status after Tuesday’s practice by the player’s agent Rob Hooper.

“It was like refrigerators were taken off their shoulders,” Spott said. “There were a lot of guys, some more than others, who needed to hear something positive like that.”

Fanelli was a candidate to play for Ontario at the World Under-17 Challenge from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4 in Timmins, Ont.

“He’s a player that we felt had the opportunity not only to be a great player for Kitchener, but I believe had an opportunity, and I still hope he has an opportunity, to be a professional hockey player,” Spott said.

Just Posted

Avid Penhold climber Catlin Hannah’s death a reminder of the dangers of scrambling

Hannah never returned from his Mount Smuts attempt on Aug. 12.

Children, elderly at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

VANCOUVER — Thick smoke blanketing British Columbia communities far from any flames… Continue reading

Trudeau: no apologies for heckler encounter, pledges to call out ‘hate speech’

OTTAWA — Hate speech and the politics of division are creating a… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP charge woman with drug trafficking

Rocky Mountain House RCMP have charged a woman with drug trafficking after… Continue reading

Anti-poverty strategy will aim for 50 per cent cut in low-income rates: source

OTTAWA — A new plan to help low-income Canadians will set a… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the… Continue reading

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month