Larionov wants emergency KHL meeting after Cherepanov death

Updated: October 14, 2008, 10:03 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

MOSCOW -- Russian hockey legend Igor Larionov says the death of rising star Alexei Cherepanov is "unacceptable" and has asked the Continental Hockey League's majority owner to hold an emergency meeting about the matter.

Alexei Cherepanov
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesAlexei Cherepanov, the top-ranked European player in the 2007 draft, was the Rangers' first-round pick that year.

Larionov, who helped Russian businessman Alex Medvedev found the league and sits on the KHL's board of directors, told ESPN.com he was flying to Russia on Thursday and hoped to get more answers. A board meeting could take place next week, Larionov said.

"I'm very upset about this," Larionov told ESPN.com from Los Angeles on Tuesday. "First of all I feel terrible for the family of Alexei Cherepanov. But we need to get to the bottom of this and find out what happened. I sent Alex [Medvedev] an e-mail last night and said we needed to have an emergency board of directors meeting. This is unacceptable. ...

"This is a blow for the KHL," added Larionov, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame next month. "We must learn from this. This cannot happen ever again."

A Russian lawmaker said Tuesday that Cherepanov, a first-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, may have died because of negligence on the part of paramedics who responded to an emergency call.

Cherepanov, 19, died Monday during a KHL game outside of Moscow.

Russian investigators said Cherepanov suffered from chronic ischemia, a medical condition in which 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 arena where Cherepanov's Russian team, Avangard Omsk, was playing.

He asserted that emergency workers took too long to respond and didn't have a defibrillator, a machine used to shock the heart. It was unclear how much time it took paramedics to respond.

"There are elements of negligence here," Krasheninnikov said in televised comments.

Shawn McBride, the KHL's North American spokesperson, said the league was investigating the matter.

"The KHL at the moment has convened a commission to look into the circumstances around exactly what happened," McBride told ESPN.com. "My latest information is that we're still waiting on perhaps further medical information on exactly what the situation was. And then as many are, such as the Russian Hockey Federation, the government, we're breaking down the circumstances around the medical support staff at the rink and away from the rink and the treatment and the things that happened moving forward there. That is all in motion right now from a KHL standpoint. ...

"This is a very significant issue. It's something that will be addressed accordingly going forward from a league standpoint and all the teams in line from there," McBride said.

When asked Monday about the availability of a defibrillator or whether medical equipment that might have helped Cherepanov was in working order, coach Wayne Fleming told ESPN.com he had been asked not to comment by team officials.

An earlier report had suggested the ambulance usually stationed at the arena had left and had to be called back, delaying Cherepanov's transport to the hospital. That report could not be independently verified.

Cherepanov's agent, Jay Grossman, told ESPN.com he'd heard the same reports of problems with medical equipment and with ambulance availability but said he didn't know the details for sure.

Moscow regional investigator Yulia Zhukova said officials would look into why Cherepanov was playing with ischemia and said officials could open a criminal investigation.

Former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr played a shift with Cherepanov and was talking to him on the bench shortly after they left the ice when Cherepanov suddenly collapsed, said a Rangers spokesman who talked to Jagr.

"He passed out on the bench and they couldn't revive him," Fleming told ESPN.com Monday night.

Cherepanov, 19, the 17th overall pick in the 2007 entry draft, was sitting between Jagr and forward Pavel Rosa on the bench during a game against Vityav Chekov on the outskirts of Moscow when he suffered an apparent heart attack.

"He just laid back, passed out and went kind of white," Fleming said.

He said a team of doctors tried to revive Cherepanov but couldn't. Cherepanov was taken to a local hospital, where further attempts to revive him failed.

Fleming said he would meet with team management in the morning to determine the next course of action vis--vis whether there would be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Cherepanov's death.

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," Grossman told The Associated Press. "He was skating in on a two-on-one 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.

Amateur video taken at the game showed players and coaches gathered around the Avangard bench and then carrying a player who appeared to be Cherepanov.

Grossman said Monday that testing done on Cherepanov at the NHL combine before last year's draft 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.

In the NHL, each team undergoes an annual audit to ensure it is in compliance with a range of emergency medical procedures that must be in place in every building, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Monday.

Among the requirements are that medical staff on hand must be certified in advanced trauma life support. There is also a requirement for ambulance service on-site.

The ability of teams to respond to medical emergencies was brought into sharp focus in November 2005 when Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer went into cardiac arrest on the bench in Detroit.

"I was sitting in the stands that night when it happened," Larionov, a former Red Wing who retired during the lockout, told ESPN.com Tuesday. "I will never forget it. And I warned the KHL about things like this."

The NHL also reviewed its procedures after Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik suffered a potentially deadly neck injury during a game in Buffalo in February when he was cut by a teammate's skate.

The Rangers announced Cherepanov's death shortly before they played at home against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night. New York coach Tom Renney said his club was not aware of any health issues with the young player.

"He's a Ranger and I think it'll have an impact on people," Renney said. "We're going to have to deal with it in our own personal way."

Cherepanov surprisingly slipped to the Rangers during the 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."

The Rangers maintained a good relationship with Omsk and the club's general manager, even though there has been feuding between the NHL and KHL.

New York assistant coach Mike Pelino recently returned from a one-week trip to Russia where he watched Cherepanov play and then dined with him and Jagr.

"I was shocked when I heard. I thought it must be a misprint or something because he just had so much going for him," Pelino said. "He was someone who I was really excited about and thought, 'Wow, we did get something special here.'

"He had things to work on. We felt he had to become a little stronger still, he had to probably become a little bit more aware defensively. But as far as raw talent went and the ability to score, he was great," he said.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com hockey writer Scott Burnside was used in this report.

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