On Monday of this past week we learned of the tragic death of 19 year-old Rangers draft pick Alexei Cherepanov. Cherepanov was playing in the Kontinental Hockey League with Omsk Avangard when he collapsed on the bench during the third period. His tragic death reminded us that hockey is just a game and yet sometimes it becomes a matter of life and death. Cherepanov is not the first young hockey player to lose his life while playing the sport he loves, Sergei Zholtok immediately comes to mind as someone who died way too young while playing the sport he loved.
Personally, I still remember watching the game between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators when Jiri Fischer went into cardiac arrest on the bench. Fischer turned out to be lucky, although he will never play hockey again, he still has his life. Fischer was luck because there was qualified medical personnel in the building and they had the proper medical equipment. If reports are correct, this was not the case for Cherepanov. It is truly a tragedy that a young man has lost his life, let's hope this a lesson to people in the future.
As a Sabres fan I can't help but think about Teppo Numminen. Numminen has a known heart condition and yet he continues to play hockey at the age of 40. Numminen missed all but one game last season because of his heart condition that was found during a training camp physical. Everytime Numminen steps on the ice, I fear that the worst could happen and yet he continues to be a productive player all the time.
There were plenty of people, fans and media alike, that were critical of the Sabres handling of the Numminen situation last year. Originally they were critical because the Sabres placed him on medical-suspension but eventually because Teppo was not allowed to play sooner. In late December or early Januray of last season, Teppo declared himself fit to play but the Sabres medical staff held him out longer. Teppo was not happy with the Sabres decision and many fans weren't either, citing the teams poor treatment of players in the past. It's hard to criticize the Sabres cautious stance regarding the health of Teppo Numminen after learning of this most recent tragedy.
There is not much good that can come from a tragedy of this magnitude but let's hope that peope will learn how to handle a situation like this in the future. It was much to short of a life for a talented young man.