Russian fans are very, very passionate about hockey. If you need proof, look no further than the buildup for the upcoming KHL game between heated-rivals Avangard Omsk and Vityaz Chekhov. Avangard’s best player is former DC malcontent Jaromir Jagr, while Vityaz – known more for its boxing than hockey skill – has former Caps Brandon Sugden, Chris Simon, and Darcy Verot filling out their ranks.
The team’s beefs with each other have been simmering for a while now, stemming from one sad event. During the 2008-09 KHL season, Avangard’s Alexei Cherepanov passed out on the bench during a game against Vityaz in Chekhov. He later died. The cause of his death filled headlines in Russia for years, with both teams getting their fair share of the blame. Wikipedia’s wordy explanation is the most fair:
Cherepanov died in Chekhov, Russia on October 13, 2008 after collapsing on the bench during a Kontinental Hockey League game with his club Avangard Omsk against Vityaz Chekhov. There was 2:55 minutes left in the game. He played a shift with teammate Jaromír Jágr, and the two were talking on the bench shortly after they left the ice, when he suddenly collapsed. After being attended to on the bench, he was carried to the dressing room where he was revived for several brief moments before finally being rushed to an intensive care unit, but it was too late. The ambulance that is normally at all games had already departed and had to be called back; doctors arrived on the scene a full 15 minutes after Cherepanov collapsed, and the battery on the defibrillator used to attempt to shock Cherepanov’s heart back to life was drained. It took approximately 20 minutes to get him to a hospital. While in the care of Chekhov doctors, he was again resuscitated briefly on two occasions. He woke up for another 2 minutes, only to collapse again. Before ultimately dying 2 hours later in the 2nd City Chekhov Hospital. Reports say that the ambulance didn’t have a defibrillator and andrenalin shots with them and that heart massage didn’t help. They still were able to start the heart 5 times and after one of them Cherepanov even got conscious and recognized his teammates, but then his heart stopped again.
The exact cause of his death was originally a cause of dispute, with a regional investigator citing he was diagnosed with chronic ischemia, but medical professionals and league sources stated it was caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Russian lawmakers said the following day that there would be investigations of negligence on the part of the responding paramedics, with the possibility of a criminal investigation being opened as well.
On December 29, 2008, Russian investigators revealed that he suffered from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, and that he should not have been playing professional hockey, however this has been disputed by the NHL after Cherepanov’s testing at the NHL Combine. The federal Investigative Committee also announced that a chemical analysis of Cherepanov’s blood and urine samples allowed experts to conclude “that for several months Alexei Cherepanov engaged in doping.” Official sources have stated the banned substance taken was nikethamide, a stimulant, and that it had been taken 3 hours prior to the game in which he died. A report by the Investigative Committee stated that “It is impossible to determine how and with what aim this medicine was administered.” The same report also revealed that Cherepanov was not doping but was instead using cordiaminum probably used to treat his condition. As of 2009, nobody has been charged relating to the death of Cherepanov, however the President, General Manager, as well as a team doctor for Avangard Omsk have all been suspended from the KHL indefinitely. Another Avangard doctor was suspended for 2 years, and the president of the host team Vityaz was suspended from the league indefinitely over health related complaints.
In the teams’ first meeting since the Cherepanov death in the 2008-09 season, the game was cancelled four minutes in by officials when a mega-fight broke out. Over 600+ penalty minutes were given to the players.
Here is video of the brawl from the KHL show “Golevaya Peredacha.” If you speak english, you should fast-forward to the 1:05 mark:
Even the gentlemanly Jagr was forced into fighting:
On September 23rd, the two teams will meet again. It should be interesting. A YouTube video uploaded by a newly registered user calling himself to MrXtort has stirred up some controversy. I first noticed the video Friday on Sports.ru’s website.
The translation of the type in the video is as followed:
4th home game [of the season for Vityaz]. 9/23. They’ll come to Podolsk [now Vityaz plays in Podolsk, not in Chekhov]. [Avangard logo]. They killed Alexei Cherepanov (newspaper titles about Cherepanov and doping in the background) and tried to blame… VITYAZ! 9th of January 2009. They wrecked the game in Chekhov after Bardin’s [Avangard GM] command… Because he needed to ‘compen$ate’ cansellation of his lifetime suspension [he was suspended during the investigation of Cherepanov’s death, but was later discharged]. CORRUPTION, COWARDICE, MEANNESS, DIRT. Enemies are near our gates! HATRED, FURY, REVENGE. All of these for them! 24 inglorious bastards! [photos of Avangard players and GM] 9/23/10. Vityaz – Avangard. 7PM. Blood on the ice.
The most interesting question is who actually made this video? Yeah, the video says it was made by Vityaz fans, but I’ve heard they don’t have guys who are experts in video editing. Some say it’s Avangard fans who want to give their team a reason to fight. But I, a proud Avangard supporter, don’t believe that theory. My opinion is that this was made by some third-party fans (Dynamo, maybe) who hate both teams and want to see them fight.
No matter who is behind it, this is one of the fiercest rivalries in sports, a blood-soaked hatred that makes any Caps-Pens beef look timid. We’ll be following this story as it develops. What do you make of it?