National Hockey League player Sergei Zholtok of Latvia, who most recently skated for the Nashville Predators, died Nov. 3 in Minsk, Belarus, according to media reports. He was 31.
Zholtok, who had been diagnosed with a heart ailment last year, collapsed during a game between Rīga 2000 and the Dinamo team of Minsk. Zholtok was pronounced dead en route to a hospital, said the Web site www.hockey.lv.
“We are all saddened and shocked to hear of Sergei’s sudden passing,” Predators General Manager David Poile said in a statement released by the team. Zholtok, a forward, joined the Predators in March after being traded from the Minnesota Wild. He became a free agent in July.
Zholtok was playing for the Rīga team while a lockout in the National Hockey League continues.
He began playing in the NHL in 1992, after being drafted by the Boston Bruins. His career also took Zholtok to the Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton teams, according to the Canadian Press. He played in a total of 588 NHL games.
Zholtok also played for Latvian national teams, most recently during the 2004 World Ice Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic. He was the Latvian team’s leading scorer during the championship.
Zholtok was an honorary director of The Kids First Fund, a Milwaukee, Wis.-based charity that aids abused children in Latvia.
Arturs Irbe, a fellow NHL player from Latvia who also is involved with Kids First, released a statement about Zholtok through Jay Sorensen, president of the charity.
“I am in tremendous grief and shock over the loss of Sergei,” Irbe said. “He was a very dear friend and I just can’t imagine the pain his family is feeling over this loss. My primary concern now is to do what I can to help his family.”
Zholtok was born Dec. 2, 1972, in Rīga. He is survived by his wife, Anna, and sons, Edgar and Nikita.
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