Aleksei Cherepanov was a young Russian ice hockey player who died on the bench during a game. He was only 19.
Aleksei’s career was short, but definitely action packed. Nicknamed the Siberian Express, he was picked to represent the Russian youth teams, and was drafted seventeenth by the New York Rangers in the 2007 NHL Draft.
Cherepanov began his career with Avangard Omsk in the 2006-2007 season. He was so successful that, still in his rookie season, he broke the Russian Superleague goal scoring record held by the Russian Rocket himself, Pavel Bure. The achievement won him the RSL newcomer of the year award, and led to the New York Rangers picking him seventeenth in the 2007 Draft.
As a young player, the Rangers left Chereapanov at Avangard to learn his trade. He continued to shine, and was picked for Russia’s World Junior Championship team and their World U18 Championships team in 2007, winning silver and gold medals respectively, and being picked for the all star team of both tournaments. He was also picked for Russia’s 2008 World Junior Championships team, where he was instrumental in helping his team to the bronze medal.
During two more seasons at Avangard, Alexei Cherepanov continued to shine – in 2008 he broke their goal scoring streak record, extending it from six to nine games.
Sadly, Aleksey Cherepanov died suddenly on 13 October 2008. He collapsed in the middle of a Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) match. He was treated immediately but, unforgivably, the ambulance that should have been present at the stadium had left early. When it returned, He was taken to hospital and resuscitated twice, but he died shortly after arrival at the hospital.
The cause of Cherepanov’s death has been disputed. Cordlamin – a banned substance – was found in his bloodstream after his death, leading to allegations that he had been taking performance enhancing drugs. (Other reports say that nikethamide, which is a stimulant was the substance found). It appears possible that he was in fact taking cordlamin for chronic myocarditis, a heart condition. However, this only deepens the mystery, as playing with this heart condition is not allowed under league rules.
To date, no-one has been convicted or even charged in relation to Cherepanov’s death, although the team doctor, President and General Manager of Avangard Omsk have all been suspended indefinitely by the KHL.
In memory of Aleksei Cherepanov, Avangard Omsk have built a memorial museum, and retired his number 7 jersey. The KHL’s rookie of the year award has also been named after him.