Prokofiev was born in Satpayev, Kazakhstan, and played his first hockey with Kazakhmys. He later joined the junior ranks of KHL organization Barys. He played with Snezhnye Barsy in the Junior Hockey League and he gained a reputation as a fierce competitor on the ice, and a valuable and popular team-mate in the locker room. In April 2019, he helped his country take silver in the World U18 Division IA in Grenoble, France.
However, the following month he began to struggle with pain in his legs. This proved to be the first symptom of Ewing’s Sarcoma. The condition, a rare type of cancer that affects the bones and the soft tissue around them, most frequently affects youngsters between the age of 10 and 20. Because it is rare, it can be difficult to diagnose; many of its symptoms are common to a number of different illnesses.
Prokofiev continued to play: despite his on-going health problems, he made 10 appearances in the JHL this season before receiving the devastating diagnosis. Once news of his condition was announced in November 2019, the wider hockey community rushed to support the youngster. A fund-raising campaign started immediately – two days after the news was announced, a charity auction raised thousands of dollars . In the following days and weeks there were donations and contributions from hockey teams and fans in Kazakhstan, Russia and beyond.
CSKA Moscow’s Russian international goalie Ilya Sorokin drew attention to Prokofiev’s plight at last month’s KHL All-Star Game. During the event, he wore a set of pads that were decorated by patients at a child cancer ward in Moscow; after the game, those pads were auctioned to raise further funds for Prokofiev’s treatment. Another famous Russian goalie, Sergei Bobrovski of the Florida Panthers, also supported the cause and spoke up about Prokofiev’s illness, encouraging the hockey world to get behind the teenager.
By mid-December, Prokofiev was in Moscow undergoing a course of chemotherapy, while the fundraising campaign continued in a bid to generate the 12 million rubles (US$190,000) needed to cover the cost of the full course of treatment. Sadly, despite completing the first course of chemotherapy and undergoing an operation to remove the cancer, Prokofiev passed away on the morning of Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.
Monday’s games in the JHL will be preceded with a minute’s silence in memory of Prokofiev.