MOSCOW // A Russian official suggested today that the rising ice hockey star Alexei Cherepanov may have died due to negligence on the part of the paramedics who responded to the emergency call. Cherepanov, 19, was a first-round draft pick for the New York Rangers of the NHL. He died yesterday during a Continental Hockey League game outside of Moscow. Russian investigators said Cherepanov suffered from chronic ischemia - a medical condition when not enough blood gets to the heart or other organs.
Pavel Krasheninnikov, who sits on the Russian Hockey Federation's supervisory council and is a member of the State Duma, said there was no ambulance on duty at the Moscow region arena where Cherepanov's Russian team, Avangard Omsk, were playing. He asserted emergency workers took too long to respond and did not have a defibrillator - a medical machine that shocks the heart. It was unclear how much time it took paramedics to respond.
"There are elements of negligence here," Mr Krasheninnikov said in televised comments. Moscow regional investigator Yulia Zhukova said officials would be looking into why he was playing with ischemia, and said officials could open a criminal investigation. Russia's hockey community - and the sporting world in general - were stunned by the incident. The death topped TV newscasts in Russia all day today.
"The most important thing was his character," said Igor Semyonov, a hockey coach with Avangard's youth training school. "You understand that for a hockey player, for an athlete in general, the most important thing is character." There was no collision that preceded the collapse but few other details were available. Cherepanov scored the first goal of the game and had eight in 15 contests this season, his third with Avangard Omsk. "It was really kind of a surreal thing for the players," Cherepanov's agent Jay Grossman said. "He was skating in on a two-on-one with Jaromir Jagr and then they came back to the bench. Jaromir was talking to him and he told him he has to score on that play. The next thing you know, he collapsed.
"(Jagr) went with him into the dressing room area and they revived him for some time and then he didn't make it." Amateur video taken at the match showed players and coaches gathered around the Avangard bench then carrying a player who appeared to be Cherepanov. Mr Grossman said yesterday that Cherepanov had testing at the NHL combine before last year's draft that did not reveal any heart problems. He has been told that players in the KHL receive regular heart and blood tests, similar to those given in the NHL.
Cherepanov surprisingly slipped to the Rangers during the 2007 NHL draft and they grabbed him with the 17th pick. The talented forward dropped because of concerns about his availability and the potential difficulty in getting him to leave Russia. "He was an exceptionally talented kid," Mr Grossman said. "He played in the Russian Elite League, in the men's league, even before he was drafted which in and of itself is an achievement. He was a self-motivated kid that had an inner-confidence about him."
The Rangers maintained a good relationship with Omsk and the club's general manager even though there has been feuding between the NHL and Russia's KHL. *AP