David Branch is President of the Canadian Hockey League, as well as Commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League. He is also human.
There has been a great deal made in the last day or so regarding the suspension of Micheal Liambas for his hit on Ben Fanelli. While a great many people and sports personalities are agreeing with it, I'm just not sure it was the right call.
After watching his interview on 'Off The Record ,' and watching the replay of the hit repeatedly, I not only think that Branch was wrong in the severity of the punishment, I think he was wrong to become involved to begin with.
The hit was not a dirty hit.
Yes, I have seen all the angles, yes, it was plainly a hit from behind, and yes, Liambas had in fact just 'sped up.'
Before I go any further, let me say this, I do not endorse dirty or reckless play, and mt heart goes out to the Fanelli family.
In watching the video(s) repeatedly from all different angles, it bacame apperant that Liambas was speeding up to beat Fanelli to the puck, not in crease the force of the check. That in and of itself removes the notion of intent to injure in my opinion.
While this removes the intent factor, it doesn't remove the hit. It appears as though, Liambas, although he must have realized he wouldn't beat Fanelli to the puck, couldn't decide what to do, and rather than just skate by, threw the elbow into Fanelli's shoulder.
This is where it get a little dicey for me.
There were obviously a lot of different factors that went into Branch's decision. I don't think enough was made of the fact that Fanelli's helmet was obviously not fastened properly. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it was his fault.
What I am saying, is that the suspension was a result more of the injury than the check as Branch himself alluded. The injury would likely not have been anywhere nearly as severe, if Fanelli's helmet had stayed on.
In closing, I think that Branch's reaction, was based in large part in reaction to the injury and not the check. It is in my opinion un-fair to effectively end the career of a player because of an injury caused by what may or may not have been a clean, albeit excessive hit.
I think that for all David Branch has done for the game, he got this one wrong.