Investigator: Hockey player had heart problems

MOSCOW (AP) — Alexei Cherepanov had heart problems and probably should not have been allowed to play in a game in which he collapsed and died, a regional investigator suggested Tuesday.

Yulia Zhukova said Cherepanov, who died Monday playing for Avangard Omsk in a Continental Hockey League game outside of Moscow, apparently had chronic ischemia — a medical condition when not enough blood gets to the heart or other organs.

"Checks will be conducted to clarify, in particular, why the sportsman with such an illness went onto the ice," Zhukova said.

Cherepanov's agent, however, said NHL tests showed him to be healthy.

A lawmaker suggested that the 19-year-old first-round draft pick for the New York Rangers may have died due to negligence on the part of paramedics.

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 Moscow region arena where Cherepanov was playing.

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

"There are elements of negligence here," Krasheninnikov said.

Vladimir Shalayev, the managing director for the newly formed Russian league, said a preliminary autopsy showed Cherepanov had a "hypertrophied heart."

"It has nothing to do with yesterday's game, there were absolutely no injuries," Shalayev said in televised comments. "He was not injured during this game."

Cherepanov's agent, Jay Grossman, said the player had tests at the NHL combine before last year's draft that didn't reveal any heart problems. He has been told that players in the Russian league receive regular heart and blood tests, similar to those given in the NHL.

The incident caught the attention of a high-level government meeting, chaired by President Dmitry Medvedev, to discuss how to revitalize Russia's deep sporting traditions.

"A person should not be allowed to take part in competition if he has ischemic heart disease," sports minister Vitaly Mutko said. "This means that in fact there is no preliminary health control and monitoring. And this system should be very well-defined."

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

There was no collision that preceded the collapse, the spokesman said.

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

Cherepanov scored the first goal Monday and had eight in 15 games 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 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," he said.

Cherepanov was the 17th pick by the Rangers in the 2007 NHL draft. The talented forward dropped to a lower pick than expected because of concerns about his signability and the potential difficulty in getting him to leave Russia.

AP Hockey Writer Ira Podell in New York contributed to this report.