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Thousands pay their respects at funeral for hockey player Alexei Cherepanov

NHL.com @NHL

MOSCOW - Friends, family and thousands of fans paid their last respects Wednesday to Alexei Cherepanov, the 19-year-old rising hockey star who died after suffering heart problems during a game outside Moscow.

State television showed mourners in his Siberian hometown lining up on a red carpet placed on the ice in the arena of Cherepanov's team, Avangard Omsk, to lay flowers at his coffin.

Crowds of mourners followed as pallbearers carried the coffin, draped with white cloth, from the arena to Omsk's Staro-Severnoye Cemetery, where Cherepanov was buried.

Some onlookers were so overcome with grief they had to be restrained as they tried to approach the coffin.

"It is hard to evaluate today the depth of the loss felt by the family of Alexei, Russian sport, and the Avangard team," said Leonid Polezhayev, the governor of the Omsk region, in comments to Russian agency Regnum.

"Alexei Cherepanov wasn't only a talented athlete and a reliable comrade, he was an idol of modern youth."

Cherepanov, a first-round draft pick for the New York Rangers, collapsed on the bench during a game outside Moscow on Monday.

Investigators have said Cherepanov apparently had chronic ischemia - a medical condition that means not enough blood gets to the heart or other organs. They have raised questions as to why the condition went undetected.

But accusations of negligence have also been flying. In particular, lawmaker Pavel Krasheninnikov, who also sits on the Russian Hockey Federation's supervisory council, has accused emergency workers of taking too long to respond to the call. He also complained there was no ambulance on standby for the game and no defibrillator, which can shock a heart back to life.

Federal investigators are examining the case.

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