Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The NHL: Shame free since 1917

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.


DR said...

Pierre McGuire : hockey analysis :: Stephen Harper : Canadian politics

Big V said...

Saw an interview with Nick Kiprios on sportsnet about the whole situation. His whole rant was about how players are going to second guess their decision based on medical reasoning.
Then at the end of the segment the guy with his asked "If they offered you an extra million at the end of your career... would you have gone"
Kiprios paused and said yes.

sager said...

Good catch, V ... talk about taking the starch out of Kypper's argument.

Hockey is a dangerous game on any continent. The North American ice that Nick Kypreos struck his head on when he suffered that career-ending concussion was just as hard as it would be in Omsk.

At the same time, I'm not so sure about the moral relativism on our end. This is not the first time a Russian league player has died of a heart ailment during a game. Contrast that with the swift reaction that likely saved Jiri Hudler's life a couple years ago.

Anonymous said...

I think you are talking about Jiri Fischer. who was forced to retire because of his cardiac episode.
Jiri Hudler is fine and still playing in the NHL.
Former Ottawa Senator Sergei Zholtok, a Latvian by nationality, was another player who died after suffering cardiac arrest while playing in the Russian Super League.
As was the case with Cherepanov, insufficient medical staff and equipment were on hand, which contributed largely to Zholtok's death.
In another case in the Swedish Elite League, a player died as the result of a Clint Malarchuk like neck slash from a skate.
Are hockey analysts here in N America, Canada especially, making too much hay out of this?
Perhaps, but surely it must give one cause for concern.
Are the medical facilities and personnel on the same level generally in Europe as it is here?
It's a legitimate question to ask.
These incidents, thankfully, are extremely rare but should one occur, one would hope that top notch medical care is available.
That has not apparently been the case in at least a couple of instances over in Russia, and it would be an important issue in my mind if I was a N American player considering playing over there.

sager said...

Yes, Fischer, man I'm dumb. (Three hours' sleep will make an idiot out of you.)