Fanelli’s road to recovery
It was a scene no mother should have to endure.
Susan Fanelli’s son Ben lay motionless on the ice after a thunderous hit knocked the 16-year-old Kitchener Rangers’ defenceman unconscious in a growing pool of blood during a game between the Rangers and the Erie Otters.
The horrified mother flew from her seat down to ice level as both teams’ medical personnel worked furiously to recover the rookie.
It was a scene I – a dedicated Rangers fan – will never forget.
The Kitchener Memorial Auditorium grew deathly silent as the magnitude of the situation became clear. A stretcher was immediately called for, and it was all Rangers’ head coach Steve Spott could do to console an understandably devastated mother.
Fanelli suffered a fractured skull, broken orbital bone and facial lacerations after the force of the body check knocked the defenceman’s helmet off and slammed the rookie’s head into the glass of the end boards.
As Fanelli was carried off the ice, in an act of incredible humanity both teams knelt in prayer for the young rookie to be okay.
It has now been three weeks since the terrifying ordeal that has brought national media attention to Kitchener.
Questions have been asked and disciplinary action has been taken, but, most importantly, Fanelli has made tremendous strides in just a short period of time.
From being in critical condition at Hamilton General Hospital to playing video games with his brother and taking walks with his father around their neighbourhood in Oakville, the Fanelli family’s nightmare has finally come to an end.
Incredibly, Fanelli’s only visible scar is a warrior’s cut above his right eye. However, the young Ranger has lost so much in his courageous fight back to health.
His whole first semester at school has been delayed and his chance at making the Ontario under-17 team has been lost, as has his whole rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League.
Nevertheless, Fanelli knows he will don the Rangers crest once again.
Despite obvious concern from his mother and cautious optimism from his father, Fanelli’s goal, as he’s stated, is to get back on the ice with the team he was only starting to become acquainted with as soon as possible.
Fanelli still suffers from fatigue and dizziness as he recovers at home, but his family knew he was back to his old self when he started showing signs of his boyish humour and wit.
“I think the only way [my mom’s] going to allow me to play again is with two big pillows strapped to my head,” Fanelli was quoted saying in the Record.
As for the penalty to Michael Liambas, the perpetrator of the hit, the 20-year-old has been suspended from the league for the remainder of his career, inciting questions about the role of a 20-year-old “enforcer” on OHL teams.
One thing remains clear. The once deathly-silent Aud will be rocked to the foundations the day a certain brave defenceman makes his return to the red, blue and white.