The game I would like to tell you about is the first game we played after Alexei Cherepanov died; when my team, Dynamo Minsk, played against his former team, Avangard Omsk in Omsk. It's definitely a game I'll never forget. So sad.
The strange thing about road trips over here is that I'm excited to go and see the new places. After traveling around the NHL cities a time or two everything seems rather routine, but here there's always a new experience waiting when you’re on the road.
Travel has been a huge adjustment. Back home a coast–to–coast flight is a once-a-year thing, but here a five-hour flight and four-hour time change is almost standard practice.
Whenever we get to a city and check into the hotel, usually within the first minute I've scanned the TV to check what channels they have in English. In the particular hotel we were staying at in Omsk they didn't have any English channels at all. Usually, if that’s the case, I'll pull out my computer and watch movies.
After dinner I settled back into my room and turned on the TV to double check if I'd missed any channels that may have been on commercial the first time. I came across a news show on Cherepanov and the tragedy that had just happened.
It was in Russian, but still rather easy to follow as they interviewed his mother. I felt so bad for her; you could see how much pain she was in and how difficult it must have been for her to lose her son at such a young age.
After the show, I walked down to Igor Ulanov's room to hangout for a bit and found out he had watched the same show. He told me how Alexei's favorite player was Jaromir Jagr and that when he heard Jagr was coming to Omsk, Cherepanov told the Rangers he was going to stay another year in Russia to play with his idol.
Ulanov also told me how Alexei’s goal was to score as often as Jagr did. As a matter of fact, during his final game, Cherepanov scored his eighth goal, tying him with Jagr.
When we got to the rink the next day and took to the ice I looked up and saw a huge 40x40 banner of Cherepanov. While it was a nice tribute to him, it was a scary reminder of how incredibly young he was. There was no music at all during the pre-game warmup and the rink was eerily silent throughout. Afterwards, Ulanov told me in the dressing room it was announced there was to be no music or cheering throughout the game in respect to Alexei and his family.
When we came out for the game, they did a ceremony for Alexei and his family and retired his No. 7. It was very sad for me as an opposing player, so I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for a teammate, friend or family member to watch.
Once the game started, it was much of the same silence we experienced in the warmup. We ended up losing the game 5-3, but it was how quiet the arena was throughout the game that will always stay with me and how incredibly young Cherepanov looked on that banner.
Ben Clymer will blog for THN.com on his experiences in the Kontinental League playing for Dynamo Minsk.
Clymer was originally drafted in the second round, 27th overall, by the Boston Bruins in 1997. He played 438 games in the NHL over seven seasons with Tampa Bay and Washington, scoring 52 goals and 129 points. After playing for the American League’s Hershey Bears in 2007-08, Clymer joined Dynamo Minsk of the KHL.