Tragic. Simply tragic. Imagine being a parent of a promising young athlete and getting that call. “Your son died on the way back from the rink.” Heartbreak. Devastation. Something nobody ever wants to go through. The scene has played itself out numerous times over the years, all as the result of something unforeseen but could have been prevented. Just the right amount of attention and help could have made things go differently.
The death of Nova Scotian born major junior prospect Jordan Boyd of the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan at the infantile age of sixteen (occurring after his collapse at a practice) has led to much, much mourning and the demand for better monitoring of the physical conditions (especially of the cardiovascular system) of young athletes. Similarly, Alexei Cherepanov, a rising star in the KHL for Avangard Omsk, suffered sudden cardiac death at the age of 19 in 2008 after having just finished a shift alongside teammate Jaromir Jagr, with whom he was speaking at the time of his collapse. Later research found that Cherepanov had myocarditis, a very serious cardiovascular disease, and should not have been playing professional hockey. I can only think that this was a result of negligence by the team’s medical staff, and the KHL agreed – Several doctors suffered repercussions due to Cherepanov’s death. But imagine if that was your child, or your nephew, or your brother, or your childhood teammate/even a longtime opponent of yours for a minute – You’d believe it was far too little too late, wouldn’t you?
I’m sure that people are taking a stand to ensure that these gifted but fragile youths are taken proper care of, but I want more to rise up. These teams/businesses are more concerned with the product that these kids are promoting than the players themselves. It’s the disgusting truth – Every one of those kids is what LeBron James was in high school times ten. If this hits you the way that it hits me, looking into the eyes of those young men – children, really! – and feeling a sense of agony, picturing dealing with that in your own life (as I did, associating these boys with some of the kids that I’ve shared the ice, rink, and dressing room with over the years and just getting punches in the gut by that thought) – Do whatever you can. Start or join campaigns in support of putting forth more monitoring and medical support for these sorts of sports organizations. Attend conferences on sports safety (there are many, most of them focus on concussions, but I see a shift in that in the near future). Write letters governing bodies such as USA Hockey and Hockey Canada and urge for changes to be made. The more time we spend sitting idly by, the more young lives will be put at risk, and nothing is worse than reaching that point of no return.