Players from Avangard Omsk and Dinamo Minsk skated with heavy hearts on Monday as the Omsk team played its first KHL game since the passing of winger Alexei Cherepanov.
With the youngster's parents in attendance, Cherepanov's jersey was brought out onto the ice and an announcement was made that his No. 7 would never be worn again.
After the national anthems, captain Alexander Svitov and alternates Anton Kuryanov and Alexander Popov carried Cherepanov's No. 7 banner to the end of the rink, where it was raised to the rafters.
"It was tough on those three guys," Omsk coach Wayne Fleming told TSN's Darren Dreger on Monday. "They didn't have a lot of time to wipe their tears before the puck drop and waway they went. And there was no warmup music at all. There was no talking among the players as both teams went about their warmup rituals and practice drills."
Avangard went on to beat Dinamo Minsk 5-3. Kuryanov, who played on a line with Cherepanov for the last two seasons, scored the game-winning goal and pointed at his heart with affection afterwards. The teams then shook hands afterwards and had their picture taken with Cherepanov's phot in the backdrop before leaving the ice.
"We won, but it wasn't without fighting through a lot of obstacles," said Fleming. "I give our guys credit, they played the hardest they could play since I got there."
Cherepanov, a 19-year-old rising hockey star who was drafted last year by the New York Rangers, died after suffering heart problems during a game outside Moscow.