Playing in the KHL will kill you. Or, at least that's the message many of this country's so-called hockey experts seem intent on conveying following the sudden death of Rangers' prospect Alexei Cherepanov Sunday.
The sad tale of the young player's death is well known. For those unaware, it basically boiled down to a heart that stopped working and a slow response from EMS officials in Russia. Complicating matters was a faulty defibrillator.
Hockey pundits are practically gleeful in telling us that it shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have. If the kid had a condition that put him at risk he shouldn't have been on the ice and the medical response should have been quicker. A teenager is dead now because not enough was done to protect him.
So, critics are right to point out that. Where they are going, oh, about 10 million times too far is in the not-too-subtle inference that it wouldn't have happened here. The "experts'" joy is barely hidden when they point out that NHL players considering a move to the rival league must "really consider what they are doing." If you are a middling NHLer, or Russian, you best not take the additional money and playing opportunity that the league might provide you. Your life just isn't worth that.
'Cause the Canadian and American medical system is without fault and North American professional sports managers have always shown the utmost concern for the health of their athletes.
The puckheads and their media apologists are petrified of the KHL. They are scared that it might work and, like the bully that tells a girl that he likes her by pulling her hair, they are in full-out insult mode when it comes to the league. It makes sense that they are, shamelessly, using the Cherepanov situation to further their agenda.
However, it would be nice if, for once, hockey's deep thinkers would address a perceived threat positively rather than circling the wagons and getting on the defensive.
Related: Cherepanov death raises questions
Update: The N.Y. Times' Jeffrey Z. Klein has more.