Death of Rangers Pick Raises Questions

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Cherepanov Photo: Getty Images

The New York Rangers have had their Len Bias moment, and, as in the case of the deceased would-be Boston Celtics star, the death of Rangers first-round pick Alexei Cherepanov is shrouded in mystery — and perhaps involves some negligence.

It has been less than 24 hours since Cherepanov, a 19-year-old forward drafted last year and currently playing for Russian team Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League, collapsed after a power-play goal. (Strangely, his linemate was Jaromir Jagr, who was a Ranger just last year and had been tutoring Cherpanov about the previous play when he collapsed.) Early reports were choppy and in Russian, which is why Jagr had been incorrectly reported to have had a “collision” with Cherepanov before the attack. Cherepanov was playing with Avangard Omsk for the summer before joining the NHL next season.

Cherepanov officially died of chronic ischemia, a condition for which he had shown no symptoms. The (disturbing) video of the incident seems to show Cherepanov being carried off the bench without a stretcher. And it’s not clear where he was being carried; the New York Post reports that an ambulance stationed at the rink had left before the game ended. Doctors were able to temporarily revive Cherepanov during the 45-minute wait for the ambulance to return, even though there was no defibrillator on the scene. Jagr said the doctors did their job and that there were no issues — other than the 45-minute wait, of course. A Russian Hockey Federation official, meanwhile, has said there was “negligence” on the part of the emergency responders.

You might be wondering why the Rangers were trusting the care of one of their most prized roster assets — Cherepanov would have been considered a Rookie of the Year candidate next year and was thought of as “special” talent — to a club team in Russia. The relationship between the Rangers and Avangard Omsk is actually a long-lasting one. The AP reports that assistant coach Mike Pelino spent a week in Russia recently and had dinner with the two players. Such arrangements between NHL teams and club teams are not unusual — at least for now.