Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hockey Heartbreak: A Tale of Two Moms

This is the story of two mothers.
Both have sons who live and breathe hockey and aspire to reach that elite level- the NHL. Both boys enter the NHL draft. One gets picked to be the New York Rangers top prospect. The other learns he has a heart problem that could cause a sudden and fatal heart attack. That boy gives up his NHL dreams, but receives a surprise. The new owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning uses his last draft pick, to select this boy and help fulfill a tiny bit of that dream, even if only in a symbolic way. The boy with the heart problem goes to college and tries to adjust to a life of hockey-- without being able to play.

The mother of the boy diagnosed with the heart problem agonizes for him, but thanks her lucky stars that he is alive. 19 year old David Carle has a full-ride scholarship to the University of Denver. Even though he can never play hockey again, he will help the team on the sidelines. He will live the NHL dream through his older brother Matt, who now plays for the team that drafted David, the Tampa Bay Lightning. However unhappy he may be, however well he may be adjusting to his new life, David is alive, his heart keeping the beat.

The mother of the boy picked by the Rangers probably beamed with pride at the thought that her boy will one day leave Siberia and live the NHL dream in America, with one of the oldest and best teams in the league. In the meantime, he was honing his skills in the Kontinental Hockey League, as a member of the Avangard Omsk. His skill already rivaled countrymen Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Bure, all NHL stars. He was maturing under the tutelage of former NHL great Jaromir Jagr. The Rangers and their fans could not wait until this boy was ready to take the Big Apple by storm. The future looked bright for 19 year old Alexei Cherepanov.

That bright future imploded in crushing heartbreak this week, when Alexei collapsed during a game and died. It turns out, he suffered from a condition that kept blood from reaching his heart and organs. He suffered an apparent heart attack while sitting on the bench next to Jagr, talking about a missed scoring opportunity. He died at the hospital.
Now, there are reports that an ambulance stationed at the arena left before the game was over and had to be called back. It did not return until 25 minutes after Alexei collapsed. There are reports that emergency workers did not have a defibrillator on hand to shock his heart back into action. Some Russian lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation.

None of this takes away from the fact that a mother has lost her son.
No criminal investigation will bring him back.
No amount of finger pointing will ease the pain in her own heart, as she faces the crushing task of laying her boy and his dreams to rest forever.

My heart goes out to both of these mothers.
I, too, have a son. He has no heart problems. He does not play hockey.
But I worry about his health and safety just the same.

In that way, I am no different from David or Alexei's mothers, or anyone else with a son or daughter.
I don’t have to explain, and neither do they.
We already know.
We are Mothers.


  1. I was stunned, to say the least, when I first heard the story about Cherry.
    It's amazing how the hockey community has now lost 2 of its' youngest, brightest talents in Bourdon and Cherepanov in such a short time period.
    I guess this is just further proof that when it's your time to go, there is nothing that's going to stop you.

    I can try to imagine what being a mother is like, but I, nor any man, can ever really understand it completely. Losing a child, especially in such a tragic way, has to be the worst thing that could happen to any mother.

    So, while we weep for his family and friends, for his teammates, and for his mother, do not cry for Alexei, because as we speak he's taking a breakout pass from Luc Bourdon, deeking past Maurice Richard on the left wing, flipping the puck to the backhand and beating George Vezina through the five-hole, because Hockey Heaven just got a pretty damn good pickup player this week.
    R.I.P. Cherry

  2. hey, no problem, just trying to make the best of a terrible situation.

    Crapitals tonight, should be a good one!

  3. I don't think I've been moved so much in so little time as I have been reading your posts. And if you tell anyone, I'll have to hunt you down and steal your twinkies. I have only this quote to respond
    "We do not weep for them, we weep for ourselves, for we will miss them" Judith Tarr.

  4. Thanks for the compliment, although technically it's not my blog, I just do most of the writing there. I don't mind a bit that you've linked, and although I would welcome any excuse to travel to your beautiful city, I only steal twinkies when the occasion demands. (dire circumstances) You have a good weekend as well. Take care.

  5. *sighs* You are still the only writer that can persuade me to read sports blog posts and give a damn about hockey players I haven't a clue about!