Former OHLer Fanelli cleared for contact
Suffered a fractured skull last season
Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli accomplished something Wednesday many thought would never happen.
Just over a year after suffering serious head injuries in an Ontario Hockey League game against the Erie Otters, the 17-year-old from Oakville, Ont. received clearance to take part in full-contact drills. That opens the door for Fanelli to return to action but Rangers coach and general manager Steve Spott was non-committal about when he might play.
"This is a positive step for Ben and we are pleased that he continues to make progress, however it is important to note that there is no timeline for Ben to return to game play," Spott said in a statement released by the team. "Our team looks forward to having him on the ice with us on a daily basis."
Fanelli was left in critical condition Oct. 30, 2009 after being hit from the blind side by Erie's Michael Liambas. The hit caused Fanelli's helmet to fall off and his face slammed against a metal stanchion, leaving him with a fractured skull and broken bones in his face.
Liambas, an over-ager, was suspended for the remainder of the season for the hit, effectively ending his junior career.
After sitting out the rest of the 2009-10 season, Fanelli rejoined the Rangers in September and has been skating regularly with the team.
Through it all, though, Fanelli and the Rangers have remained relatively quiet about when, or if, he might play again. That likely won't change in the future.
"For both our organization and Ben's family, the focus has been on Ben's recovery and will remain unchanged as Ben makes another positive step forward," Rangers chief operating officer Steve Bienkowski said.