Alexei Cherepanov passed away Monday from heart failure during a KHL game. He was only 19. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
It’s a sad day in the hockey world.
The passing of 19-year-old Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov is yet another unfortunate and unfair example of why you can never take anything for granted; life is just too short.
(If you haven’t seen it, HERE is video of his chilling last moments at the arena.)
Whether Cherepanov was ever going to make his way to North America to play doesn’t matter. This incident isn’t about East vs. West, NHL vs. KHL or any transfer agreement. It’s about a kid who could play the game – and play it with the best in the world – who left us too soon, long before he reached his full potential.
Health matters of the heart are usually a mystery and difficult to figure out or solve. David Carle, brother of Tampa Bay’s Matt, was diagnosed with a heart abnormality called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can cause cardiac arrest with too much exertion. He was forced to retire on draft day.
New Jersey Devils prospect Barry Tallackson just had surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat at the end of September and is working his way back to playing full-time.
They can almost consider themselves lucky for having their ailments discovered before anything worse occurred.
It was a little more than a year ago a close friend of mine suddenly died from a heart condition that came out of nowhere. He was a healthy hockey player and ran a hockey school in the Greater Toronto Area. One weekend we were at the cottage talking about hockey and two weeks later I got a phone call telling me he had been rushed to a hospital and died overnight. He was 25.
It can happen at any time and it's not fair.
This weekend I went home for Thanksgiving and took in an Ontario League game between the Barrie Colts and Erie Otters. Both teams had busy travel schedules recently and the guys in the press box agreed the game was a bit of a stinker.
But you know what? It was still entertaining. The players are just kids, with scouts to impress and dreams to chase. They play a pure game based on passion and desire. Even in a sleeper game, there were still some “wow” moments and it was a game I enjoyed watching.
It’s been a difficult year for the world of hockey. From Mickey Renaud to Luc Bourdon and now Cherepanov, hockey fans everywhere should honor the memories of these kids and use their tragedies as a reason to go out and take in a junior and/or NCAA game this year.
Too many people take these development leagues for granted. It’s a hockey fan’s crime and they don’t know what they are missing.
There’s a lot of talent and some great kids on the ice. It’s also some of the best and most exciting hockey you can find, plus you get to see the players before they become the stars of the NHL.
So take time out of your schedule this winter to take in at least one of these games and be thankful for the talent these kids possess, because you just never know what tomorrow will bring.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays.
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