On Monday, Alexei Cherepa- nov took his last breath. At the ripe age of 19, he was a rising star in Russia’s KHL, outscoring many modern stars in his first season. Playing for Avangard Omsk in Siberia, he had plans next year to play for the New York Rangers. After a shift in the third period of Monday’s game, Cherepanov came off the ice and collapsed on the bench. Lots of American athletes have died over the years — even ones as notable as Cherepanov. Boston Celtics fans would point out the 1986 cocaine overdose death of second overall pick Len Bias only days after he was drafted. Darrent Williams, a second-round pick of the Denver Broncos, was gunned down by Crips after two seasons in the NFL. But this was worse. Bias’ death was preventable, obviously, and Williams was out at a club at 2 a.m. after a game. Cherepanov’s death, according to Pavel Krasheninnikov, a league governor quoted by ESPN, was preventable. He died, said Krashennikov, because the ambulance mandated at all KHL games wasn’t there. It left early. Moreover, when the ambulance came back, it didn’t have a defibrillator — you know, that device with the paddles, the one used to revive patients felled by heart problems. That one recommended by the Red Cross, and other organizations. Nope. In 2005, Jiri Fischer, then a sixth-year defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings, went into cardiac arrest during a game. He was unconscious for six minutes, due to what doctors determined later was either ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. And, since he was suffering from fibrillation, I’m sure you can’t guess what type of device could have been responsible for resuscitating him and saving his life. Shocker: it was one of those things they don’t have in Russian ambulances. Omsk pays their superstar Jaromir Jagr $10 million every year, more than any American team could. But apparently the oil-enriched fat cats in Russia can’t spring for a defibrillator — on starting at $1,275 per unit. They’re even eligible for “FREE Super Saver Shipping,” and there’d probably be some discount for buying in bulk. In typical Russian fashion, the KHL already has explained his death: Cherepanov suffered from “chronic ischemia, a medical condition in which not enough blood gets to the heart or other organs,” according to ESPN. Cherepanov often drew comparisons to Kovalchuk and Ovechkin. I think a more apt comparison is Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko was the KGB agent turned Russian dissident who died in 2006 from radiation poisoning. He fell ill the day he met with two former KGB agents in London. And surprise! — Russia has refused to extradite the chief suspects in the case to Britain. In Russia they kill journalists and they kill politicians, but we Ranger fans are not supposed to suspect anything when a promising hockey star who wanted to go to the US dies. Anticipating such charges, the KGB —I’m sorry, KHL — has created a commission to investigate the circumstances of Cherepanov’s death – and the Russian government has created a panel too. A Moscow investigator, quoted by ESPN, said that officials might even open a criminal investigation. The Russian mob has a massive stake in the KHL, as does the state. Moreover, the troubling transfer case of Alexander Radulov — an up-and-coming Russian star in the NHL, who while under contract with Nashville, decided to return to KHL club Salavat Yulaev Ufa — likely imbued the KHL with a new confidence. The NHL is struggling economically, as are the United States and Canada, but the KHL is drowning in cash. Cherepanov, despite an inconsistent work ethic, was one of the league’s biggest stars. But he was going to play in the United States. And when you think that his death isn’t that odd, consider that he was just 19 — the same age as many postgraduates on PA’s hockey team — and in elite shape. Factor in that batteries of standard heart tests performed before the season on Cherepanov, as on other players, found nothing, and the KHL has some questions to answer. But they’ll probably just tell us “hockey players of the world, unite!” Take that to heart.