A week ago today friends, family, teammates and fans marked forty days since the passing of Alexei Cherepanov with a somber memorial at the fallen forward’s grave site. Two days later, with the black mourning armbands they’ve worn since the his death removed — the “7″ patches remain prominently displayed on each player’s jersey, and will do so through the remainder of the season — the team halted a skid that had stretched to five games with a 3-2 shootout victory over Khimik Voskresensk.
Jaromir Jagr, who has only two assists through six games in the month of November, admitted that he continues to have difficulty dealing with Cherepanov’s death. “We still have not recovered from the tragedy,” Jagr shared. “I can’t escape the thought that I have lost a younger brother. Sometimes, you go to practice and remember how you remained on the ice with Lyoshka, worked on dekes, shots, passes. Or you sit on the bench during the game and your eyes search for a familiar number on a sweater, and you come upon continuous line of sevens.” Jagr’s not alone — the whole team is struggling through its grief. “Each of the guys is in a black, mournful frame [of mind]. You know, in the past when I read about the loss of close relatives in books, I didn’t comprehend the whole magnitude of the grief.”
A museum honoring Cherepanov is being planned for an area of the large foyer of Omsk Arena where fans filled a wall with phrases and poems of remembrance following his death. Cherepanov’s father, Andrei Cherepanov, who now works as a manger for the club, has been tasked with organizing the museum, which will contain a collection of jerseys, medals, gloves and photos of the young Russian star, as well as fan contributions including team scarves, Cherepanov autographs, and poems and songs penned in his memory.
Cherepanov’s mother, Margarita Cherepanova, spoke to reporters following the memorial about her growing frustration with the lack of answers she’s received about the cause of her son’s death. “Ms. Tarasova (the head of the department of public health services in Checkhov – ed.) declared to the whole world, that such a sick person couldn’t even participate in amateur sports,” she told Sport-Express. “What I want to ask — is Tarasova right or not? I understand that I will not find the truth. But somebody should experience at least a little bit of what I have. It’s not vengeance, but I’m a mother, and any mother will understand my feelings.” Cherepanova has been unable to get any information from investigators, instead having to rely on newspaper and TV reports. “Right now I’d don’t see the truth — I get all information from newspapers and TV screens. I call Moscow, the reply there — the investigation has been extended, everything is classified. From who? From his mother? I should know everything first, not the rest of the world. It all seems wrong somehow.”
The criminal investigation — which has been extended twice — is now expected to be concluded by the end of this month. Avangard President Konstantin Potapov has revealed that the results of medical tests performed on Cherepanov by the New York Rangers when he was in New York following the 2007 NHL Entry Draft have been of no assistance in the investigation. “Unfortunately, we expected a little more from the American tests [performed] by the Rangers,” Potapov told Sport-Express. “For the most part the examination was conducted in the form of “question and answer”. There was no in depth analysis there of how the heart works or of other internal organs. Yes, there is a cardiogram, but it concurs completely with the one that was done on Lesha by Omsk’s doctors,” he explained. “From that which has come to us, one can not draw conclusions on the reasons for the tragedy.”
After a 6-day break, Avangard return to the ice tomorrow to try to build on last weekend’s win when they face Amur Khabarovsk at home.
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