I am sadden to spread word that New York Rangers 2007 draft pick, 19 year old Alexei Cherepanov, passed away during a game with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, in Moscow earlier today.
“We are extremely saddened by the tragic passing of Alexei," said Glenn Sather, Rangers general manager. "On behalf of the New York Rangers organization, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family. Alexei was an intelligent, energetic young man, with tremendous talent and an extremely bright future."
The Rangers had plans to sign Cherepanov to a deal to come to the NHL has soon has he finished out his contract with Omsk, set to expire at the end of this season.
Cherepanov collapsed during the third period of the game, while he was sitting on the bench, due to an apparent heart attack. His coach and other spectators said didn’t notice any on ice event which could have triggered his heart to stop. Because it was so close to the end of the game, the ambulance (which usually is there for the duration of the game) had already left. There are also questions about the medical equipment available, such as whether defibrillators at the arena where in good and updated condition. Medical personnel at the arena tried to get his heart started in the parking lot, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
If that is the truth, this tragedy becomes a bigger shame. If that is true, if safety regulations weren’t properly being followed, then the Rangers needlessly lost their 1st round draft pick, hockey needlessly lost a talented prospect, and a family needlessly lost their son, and instead of planning for a wedding and for fatherhood and for Stanley Cup rings, they will be planning a funeral. It’s sickening.
Jaromir Jagr, who signed with Omsk over free agency, had been working hard with Cherepanov to get him ready to come over and play for the Rangers. Cherepanov said Jagr excited him to play in the NHL, and for the New York Rangers. Jagr had become “almost like another coach.”
Alexei Cherepanov had 8 goals and 5 assist in the first 12 games of this KHL season. He was picked 17th overall in the 2007 draft, and only so low due to concerns about the NHL’s ability to get him out of the KHL, with there being contract issues between the two leagues. He scored in the first period of today's game, as well.
"He was close to a complete package," said Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting. "Very fast skater. He was a goal scorer and a passer.
"I think he could have been a big spectator favorite because he was that kind of player. Sometimes you could hardly notice him, but on one shift, he could do unbeliveable things with the puck -- passing, shooting, skating, extremely skillful. A finesse player with a capital 'F.'"
On behalf of HLOG, Ranger fans, and hockey fans in general, I want to extend my deepest sympathy to Alexei Cherepanov’s family, friends, and teammates. Nineteen is just too young to go, especially over a game. He had too bright of a future, and too much left to accomplish. Cherepanov will be missed, even by a league which he never got to play in, and even by a team whose sweater he never got to wear.
*On edit, there seems to be reports surfacing that Jaromir Jagr was somehow involved in the death of Alexei Cherepanov due to an accidental collision between the two teammates. If this is the case, my heart goes out to Jagr during this hard time. The irony and the tragedy is unbearable. He was working so hard to get Cherepanov here, only saying wonderful things about the Rangers organization... Jagr was his hero, and they were mutually thrilled to play with one another. Although it is just speculation at this time, I hope there is little truth to this rumor, and that even accidentally, nothing had a hand in the unfortunate death of such a young talent besides an undisclosed medical condition.