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 to serious but stable, the OHL team said on its website.
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."
Fanelli is four years younger than the 20-year-old Liambas, who has now played his last OHL game.
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.
He was a candidate to play for Ontario at the World Under-17 Challenge from Dec. 26 to Jan. 4 in Timmins, Ont., according to Rangers head coach Steve Spott.
"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.
The Rangers travel to Peterborough to play the Petes on Thursday. Erie returns to the ice Friday against visiting Niagara.