This happens with young athletes from time to time. Usually basketball players whose bodies grow too fast for their heart or some such. Assuming there were no drugs involved, it's probably something like that. A congenital heart problem. Hard to imagine someone that young having a heart attack. That's for sure.
A secondary concern is what a tragedy like this does to a franchise. An early round draft pick and now he's gone. Just ask Celtic fans what this means. Many say when Len Bias died, he took the fanchise with him for many years. Of course, that is not the major tragedy here. But it is a concern.
The Rangers have confirmed an earlier report that Alexei Cherepanov, their first round draft pick from 2007, died in a game played this evening in Russia.
⁈Å"We are extremely saddened by the tragic passing of Alexei,⁈ Glen Sather said in a statement. ⁈Å"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.⁈
According to TSN, Cherepanov collapsed on the bench during the third period, but not as a result of a specific hit or play. The site quotes head coach Wayne Fleming as saying medical personnel tried to revive the player, but without success.
Cherepanov had seven goals and 12 points in 14 games this year for Omsk, where he was a teammate of Jaromir Jagr. The Russian wing was the 17th pick overall in the 2007 draft, although most scouting services had him rated much higher.
Although he had come to a Rangers prospect camp immediately following that draft, he never came back to New York. At the time the player expressed his desire to play in the NHL, but given the precarious relations between the NHL and the upstart Continental Hockey League, there were increasing questions about whether Cherepanov would ever play for the Rangers.
Still, this is a tragic blow⁈”a devastating loss of an immense talent, and a player some saw as a significant part of the Rangers future.
Update, 4:22 p.m.: Spoke to Jay Grossman, Cherepanov⁈⁚s agent.
⁈Å"It⁈⁚s completely shocking, completely devastating,⁈ Grossman said. ⁈Å"This 19 year old kid who was a great kid, he had a great smile and was a tremendously talented kid. It⁈⁚s a situation that you can⁈⁚t even describe.⁈
According to Grossman, who spoke to people at the game, Cherepanov collapsed once on the ice, and collapsed again on the bench. I realize there have been reports that he collided with another play, but I haven⁈⁚t been able to confirm that, and Grossman knew nothing about it.
Finally, I asked Grossman about whether Cherepanov had any history of heart problems.
⁈Å"Not that we know of. He was here attending training camp two years ago there was no indication of this whatsoever.⁈
Update, 5:16 p.m.: Most players hadn⁈⁚t heard of Cherepanov⁈⁚s death before arriving at the rink.
⁈Å"Some fan just told me outside,⁈ Brandon Dubinksy said. ⁈Å"It⁈⁚s terrible.⁈
Tom Renney hadn⁈⁚t talked to Jaromir Jagr tonight, but he had spoken to the Rangers captain about Cherepanov in recent weeks.
⁈Å"Jaromir thought he could play on our second line,⁈ Renney said.
Still to come are quotes from Mike Pelino, who had visited Omsk and spent time with Cherepanov from Aug. 29-Sept. 4.
Update, 5:23 p.m.: Very few players on this team knew Cherepanov. One who at least played against him was Marc Staal, who faced Cherepanov in the World Junior Championship, and then took part in the same prospect camp with him in June, 2007.
⁈Å"He was very highly touted going into the draft, and when the Rangers drafted him, I was very excited to get him because he was such a talent,⁈ Staal said. ⁈Å"From what I had heard he was playing great and having a great year in Russia. So I⁈⁚m sure he was going to be a big part of the organization⁈⁚s future.⁈
Also, in another conversation with Grossman, the agent refuted reports that a collision with another player triggered Cherepanov⁈⁚s collapse.
Update, 5:30 p.m.: By way of the Slap Shot blog, the Russian daily Sport-Express reported Cherepanov⁈⁚s collapse was not a result of a collision with another player or blows to the head or chest. The player was pronounced dead at 10:55 local time.
Update, 5:38 p.m.: Rangers assistant Mike Pelino had visited Omsk in late August in part to check up on Cherepanov, but also as a gesture of goodwill between the Rangers and the Russian team.
⁈Å"When I went over I was really excited after I got to spend a little bit of time with him,⁈ Pelino said. ⁈Å"First of all, he was very very engaging as a young man. He was very excited about the opportunity of when it was going to happen for him to get to New York. We went out to dinner, with him myself, Jaromir and a couple of the other guys on the team. He was just full of energy, full of enthusiasm, really excited⁈ ¦ He said he was really looking forward to the day when he could come play for the New York Rangers.⁈
I asked Pelino if he got the impression Cherepanov could play for the Rangers as early as next season.
⁈Å"I⁈⁚d have to say if we were in a position to give him an opportunity and he was able to take advantage of it, he would have stuck with us,⁈ Pelino said. ⁈Å"He looked good.⁈
Can't believe it, so sad. He was just 19 years old, a baby! I feel so bad for him and his family. RIP
New York Ranger prospect Alexei Cherepanov collapsed on the bench during Omsk's Kontinental Hockey League game on Monday and died a short time later.
Omsk head coach Wayne Fleming said Cherepanov collapsed on the bench during the third period of the game and did not see anything that happened on the ice that may have contributed to it. He also said medical authorities tried to get Cherepanov's heart beating again after it had stopped.
"They tried to get his heart started again but they couldn't," he explained.
Sources in Russia tell TSN that the ambulance that is normally at all games had already departed and had to be called back.
It is not clear exactly how long it took for Cherepanov to be transported from the rink to the hospital but one source in the arena told TSN it was, "probably 15 or 20 minutes."
There are also questions as to whether defibrillators at the arena were in good working order, though no further details are available.
"We are extremely saddened by the tragic passing of Alexei," said New York Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather in a statement. "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."
Cherepanov was drafted 17th overall by the Rangers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
"He was a great kid," Cherepanov's agent Jay Grossman told TSN. "He had a great smile and was an outstanding player with a great future on and off the ice. It's both shocking and devastating news for all of us. "
He had seven goals and 12 points in 14 games played this season in KHL, including the first goal in Monday's game. Cherepanov played 106 games during his career in the KHL/RSL (Russian Super League), all with Avangard Omsk and scored 40 goals with 29 assists over that span.
He set the RSL record for goals by a rookie with 18, beating the previous mark held by Pavel Bure (17 goals), during the 2006-07 season. His 29 points in his rookie campaign was more than Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk scored during their first initial RSL seasons.
Cherepanov also helped lead Russia to a Bronze Medal at the World Junior Championships in 2008, scoring three goals and adding three assists with a plus-three rating over his six games at the tournament.