Alexei Cherepanov, a 19-year-old Russian hockey player from Avangard Omsk, lost his consciousness in the middle of a game with Vityaz in the Moscow region, Sport TV Channel reports. Cherepanov subsequently died in the intensive care unit of the local hospital in spite of the fact that doctors were taking life-saving efforts for an hour.
The tragedy occurred on the 18th minute of the Continental Hockey League game between Vityaz (Chekhov) and Avangard (Omsk). Cherepanov was playing a shift with Jaromir Jagr, an Olympic champion from the Czech Republic. Jagr was talking to his young Avangard Omsk teammate on the bench shortly after they left the ice, when Cherepanov suddenly collapsed.
There was no collision that preceded the collapse, the spokesman said, 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 2-on-1 with Jaromir 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."
Grossman said Cherepanov was eventually taken to the hospital, but the agent had little information about what happened, the AP reports.
Russian news agencies reported that Cherepanov suffered from a condition that restricted blood supply to certain organs. Prosecutors were reportedly investigating the death and why Cherepanov was allowed to play.
The Rangers observed a moment of silence before their 4-1 victory over the Devils at Madison Square Garden as Cherepanov's picture was displayed in the midst of a black background on the center ice video board.
Grossman said Cherepanov had testing at the NHL combine before last year's draft that didn't 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 signability and the potential difficulty in getting him to leave Russia.
"He was an exceptionally talented kid," 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."
Alexei Cherepanov was born on January 15, 1989 in the Altay region of Russia.