Thursday October 16th 2008, 12:40 am

A translation of Championat.ru’s touching account of Alexei Cherepanov’s funeral service in Omsk on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 15:20
Author: Yulia Kovirshina, Oleg Magitski, Championat.ru

Today Omsk said goodbye to Alexei Cherepanov. To the 19-year old kid who always had a smile. To the young forward of Avangard. The public funeral was held in the lobby of Omsk Arena. Afterwards they brought the coffin with Alexei’s body to the Old Northern Cemetary and committed it to the earth. Many thousands of people have come to see Cherepanov off on his final journey.

This gloomy grey morning in Omsk will never be forgotten. And the ten thousand seats in the stands of Omsk Arena would hardly be enough to hold everyone who came to say goodbye to their idol, to the player of their team, yes, simply to the person, to a fellow countryman. The people kept coming and coming…

Not just fans. Many didn’t conceal it: they are indifferent to hockey. But they simply could not remain indifferent to such a tragedy. The never-ending stream of people and sea of flowers covered the floor of the rink and its broad lobby. And in Omsk today the counters of flower shops have been emptied…

The coffin was placed in the very middle of the ice surface. Beside it, a mother in tears with a father trying hard to stay composed. Alexei’s classmates in the Omsk hockey school. An honor guard from the cadets. Alexei’s teammates, the players of Avangard, in suits. The entire training staff. The entire management of the club. The service was officiated by Omsk Metropolitin Tarsk Feodos. Thousands of people of all ages passed by single file.


Tears in the eyes of Avangard head coach Wayne Fleming. Anton Kuryanov barely contains his sobs. Jaromir Jagr looks simply crushed.

Someone started the rumor that right after a collision with him Cherepanov’s heart failed. Fans… we don’t even know what to call it… the video of Alexei Cherepanov’s last line change in the game in Chekhov: in it is plainly seen that after Kuryanov’s line, with which Cherepanov took the the ice, Svitov’s line went out on the ice. And so, by that time Jagr was already sitting on the bench — and there was no way he could have collided with Cherepanov.

No one even wants to talk about this. But, they’ve been compelled to. “Some Russian journalist has made it all up. Nothing like that happened. Most likely, he wanted to attract readers by putting the name Jagr in the headline. As you know, I don’t play with Lesha at all. Both of us are right wings,” strained Jagr to the TV camera.


Today nobody can hold them back. Even hockey players, these healthy men who have seen everything in their lives. Despite the big difference in age, all of them were Alexei’s great friends, everyone was one team. Boris Tortunov, who “guided” the young Cherepanov under Valeri Belousov, now plays for Vityaz. He watched that game from the bench. And today Tortunov is again in Omsk. He couldn’t not come, couldn’t not say goodbye to his friend.

“To speak is very difficult, I can say nothing…” the face of the goalkeeper is gray. “This flood of people speaks for itself. We have lost a very good hockey player, and I… have lost a very close friend.”

“Everyone is simply empty,” says Anton Kuryanov. “We came home and… I can hardly believe it. We think: here he’ll come now and start smiling again… Everything happened so quickly… All the guys call the club, ask… nobody can believe it… He was invited to, and very much wanted to make the national team. He was looking forward to it, he said: ‘Come on, we’ll play’…”

“It’s an irreplacable loss for Russian hockey,” Cherepanov’s first coach on the Avangard youth team, Igor Semenov, is inconsolable. “He could play and play more, could have grown into a star on a world-wide scale. He always had remarkable leadership qualities, always put his teammates ahead of himself. I saw this in him at 13 years old, I was amazed by his scoring sense, his sense of the moment, and invited him to Omsk. It was clear that he was happy when he made it onto the roster of our main team. Lesha was always noted for his excellent health, he never made any complaints about that. How could something like this happen… I simply do not understand…”

…When Cherepanov was carried from the Arena, once again it had begun to drizzle. In such cases they say that nature itself cries. And people lined up in a living corridor. Through them the coffin was carried by the hands of his partners: the haggard-looking Dmitry Ryabikin, Anton Kuryanov, Alexander Svitov, and Jaromir Jagr.

The square sobbed…

The feeling of injustice and powerlessness to change something is the most terrible, most hopeless feeling. And it is in everyone’s soul. Parents. Relatives. Hockey players. Everyone. Alexei considered Omsk his second home — here he achieved his first successes, and then became the most promising forward in Russian hockey, and idol of hundreds of thousands of fans. And therefore, by the will of his parents, he has been buried in Omsk. At the Old Northern Cemetary — next to the heros and most celebrated people of the Omsk region…

No fewer gather at the cemetary to send Cherepanov off on his journey than at the Arena. Again a mass of flowers, dozens of wreaths. Again tears…

The memorial service, at which the governor of the Omsk region, Leonid Polezhaev said a word, vice president of the KHL Rodion Tukhvatullin, first cousin of Dmitri Medvedev, Alexei, wanted to prolong it more — if only not bid farewell to Alexei forever.

“Lyokha was always a true friend, a comrade, always supportive, always near” said the captain of Avangard, Alexander Svitov. “A true professional of his business. By his age he was a little star, but he played like a true star. Lyokha will remain forever in our hearts, and the number seven will be sacred in our team.”

The number seven on Avangard now forever remains assigned to Alexei Cherepanov. And a jersey with his name will be raised to the rafters of Omsk Arena at the next home game of the “Hawks”. Forever…

When the coffin was lowered into the grave, a never-ending stream of people lined up in turn — to throw a handful of earth. Someone observed that shovels will not be necessary — they will cover him with earth with their hands…

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

    Thank you for sharing this recount. It helped me better understand who Alexei Cherepanov was by seeing him through the eyes of some of those who knew him best and loved him most. It is also beautifully written – an Olympian task for such a dark time.

    Comment by #14 10.16.08 @ 10:01 am

    You’re welcome. I agree it is beautifully written, and hoped my translation would do it justice.

    Comment by laurie 10.16.08 @ 10:56 am

    It absolutely did, no doubt about that.

    Comment by Goalie 10.16.08 @ 1:23 pm

    That last paragraph was possibly the saddest thing I have ever read. One of the things that I find so compelling about Russians is their dramatic souls.

    Comment by RS 10.16.08 @ 3:00 pm

    this is just so sad. for Alex and his family and teammates. a young man of promise and a smile that only the young really have. feel bad for Jagr he looks crushed.

    Laurie thanks for all the stories over last couple of years on Alex. your pride in his accomplishments was very evident. I am sure this has been even tougher on you tham most of us who only knew him by reading and seeing vids of him. so my condolences to you as well in addition to my prayers for Alex and his family.

    Comment by LI Joe 10.16.08 @ 6:29 pm

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