The Mysterious Death Of The Siberian Express: Rangers' Alexei Cherepanov

Martin AverySenior Writer IFebruary 13, 2009

The New York Rangers are seeking a compensatory selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft for the loss of Alexei Cherepanov, who died during a game in Russia.

The 19-year-old star of Avangard Omsk, in the Continental Hockey League (KHL), died suddenly,last October, after collapsing on his team's bench, during a KHL game in Checkhov, not far from Moscow.

Rangers GM Glen Sather claims the Rangers should receive the 17th selection in the second round of June's draft as compensation for losing Cherepanov, the 17th overall selection in the 2006 Draft.

The New York Rangers drafted Cherepanov with their first selection, 17th overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Nicknamed the Siberian Express, Cherepanov was in his third season with Avangard, in Siberia. In his rookie season in the Russian Superleague, Cherepanov had more points than Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Ilya Kovalchuk did respectively, at the age of 17. Cherepanov beat the Russian league rookie goal scoring record previously held by Pavel Bure.

Cherepanov was drafted 17th overall despite being considered a top five prospect because of the lack of a new transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation concerning players in the Russian Hockey Federation.

He played a shift with teammate Jaromír Jágr, and the two were talking on the bench shortly after they left the ice, when he suddenly collapsed.
He had a two-on-one situation with Jagr on his final shift. He scored a goal earlier in the game.

The Federal Investigative Committee in Russia announced that Cherepanov engaged in doping, according to Wikipedia, and official sources have stated the banned substance taken was nikethamide, a stimulant, taken before the game.

Cherepanov's team was found negligent, according to an AP report.

The KHL issued indefinite suspensions to the general manager, the president, and team doctor Avangard Omsk, citing criminal negligence for their roles in the death of Alexei Cherepanov.

The indefinite suspensions of Avangard's general manager, Anatoly Bardin; its president, Konstantin Potapov; and one of its team doctors, Sergei Belkin, as well as of Vityaz Chekhov's president, Mikhail Denisov, were announced one day after Cherepanov would have turned 20. Another Avangard team doctor, Dmitry Batushenko, was suspended for two years.

Vladimir Shalaev, a KHL VP, said Avangard doctors and team directors should have known that Cherepanov had a potentially fatal heart condition and it should have prevented him from playing hockey.

Shalaev also said Cherepanov was given a banned performance-enhancing drug, which was found in his system during an autopsy.

Cherepanov died shortly after his heart failed as he sat on the bench alongside his teammate Jaromir Jagr at the end of a game against Vityaz Chekhov. He went into cardiac arrest

Doctors arrived on the scene a full 12 minutes after Cherepanov collapsed, according to the Canadian Press.

Efforts to revive Cherepanov were slow because there were no ambulances or working defibrillators at the Chekhov arena.

The ambulance usually stationed in the arena had already left the building and had to be recalled.

It took approximately 20 minutes to get him to a hospital, according to Wikipedia. While in the care of Chekhov doctors, he was again resuscitated briefly on two occasions, before ultimately passing.

The cause of his death was disputed. A regional investigator said it was chronic ischemia. Investigations of negligence revealed he suffered from myocarditis, a condition where not enough blood gets to the heart, and that he should not have been playing professional hockey.

A chemical analysis of Cherepanov's blood and urine samples allowed experts to concludei Cherepanov had engaged in doping for several months. Official sources have stated the banned substance taken was nikethamide, a stimulant, and that it had been taken three hours prior to the game in which he passed. describes Cherepanov as a player who had great potential. He appeared in 14 games with Avangard Omsk of the Continental Hockey League (KHL) this season, registering seven goals and five assists for 12 points.  He ranked second on the team in goals (seven) and fourth in points (12).  He also ranked third on the team with a 24.1 shooting percentage.

The 6-1, 187-pounder appeared in 106 career Russian Super League (RSL)/KHL matches with Avangard Omsk, collecting 40 goals and 29 assists for 69 points, along with 61 penalty minutes.

With 29 points in his first season with Omsk, Cherepanov recorded more points than Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin and Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk each tallied in their first RSL season.

At 15, he broke through for Avangard-2 (which functions as the club's junior team). In just 28 games, he racked up a staggering 31 goals and 61 points, according to Bill Meltzer of

Cherepanov represented Russia at the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships and won a silver medal. He was named to the tournament's all-star team and won the award for best forward.

During the 2007 IIHF World U18 Championships Cherepanov lead Russia to a gold medal. In the final against USA, he scored a goal to give Russia the lead early in the third period. Cherepanov was selected to the media all-star team, in total he scored five goals, tied for second in the tournament. His eight point total was second to Nikita Filatov's nine points as scoring leader for team Russia. Filatov now plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL.

During game two of the 2007 Super Series between Russia and Canada, Cherepanov collided with Canadian forward Brandon Sutter and suffered a concussion. Team Russia was winless for the remainder of the series.

Cherepanov led Russia to a bronze medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships, and had three points in the medal winning 4–2 victory over the United States.
State television showed mourners in Ozeki, his hometown in Siberia, lining up on a red carpet placed on the ice in the hockey stadium of Cherepanov’s team, Avangard Omsk, to lay flowers at his coffin. Thousands attended the funeral.


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