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Death brings moment of silence at Rangers-Devils game

October 13, 2008 |  7:50 pm

Moment Before the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils faced off tonight at Madison Square Garden, a moment of silence was observed for Alexei Cherepanov.

Cherepanov, a Rangers first-round draft pick in 2007, died after collapsing during a Continental Hockey League game in Moscow on Monday night. He was 19. Former Rangers Captain Jaromir Jagr, a teammate on the Avangard Omsk, was with Cherepanov when he collapsed.

Although few details were immediately available, the Associated Press quoted Cherepanov's agent, Jay Grossman:

"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."

Although it is not yet known what caused Cherepanov's death, the first thought that came to mind was Hank Gathers, whose sudden death in 1990 during a college basketball game left people stunned and shaken. He was 23, and the cause of death was said to be related to a heart disorder.

Then there was Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics, Thomas Herrion of the San Francisco 49ers, Jason Collier of the Atlanta Hawks, former major league pitcher Joe Kennedy and Olympic marathon hopeful Ryan Shay -- all died in their 20s of heart-related complications. Like Gathers, Lewis, Herrion and Shay were were undergoing, or had just completed, physical exertion.

The most sobering thought: According to the latest medical statistics, sudden cardiac arrest is still the leading cause of death among young athletes, claiming a young life in this country every three or four days.

-- Dan Arritt

Photo: Players bow their heads during a moment of silence for New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov. Credit: Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger via US Presswire