Nashville Predators center Sergei Zholtok has died of an apparent heart ailment at the age of 31.
According to the NHL outfit, Zholtok died on Wednesday in his native Latvia where he was playing for Riga 2000 during the league lockout.
Reports said Zholtok, who had suffered bouts of fainting and fatigue in the past year, left the game and collapsed and died on the way to the locker room.
"We are all saddened and shocked," said Predators general manager David Poile.
"He was a hardworking player who was
well-liked by his teammates and coaches. We extend our
deepest sympathies to the Zholtok family," Poile added.
Zholtok began to suffer health problems in January 2003 and sat out seven games early last season after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and flu-like symptoms before being cleared to return.
In total, Zholtok appeared in 588 NHL games from 1992-2004 with Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Minnesota and Nashville.
He joined the Predators on 5 March in a trade
In 70 games last season with the Wild and Predators,
Zholtok had 14 goals and 17 assists. For his career,
Zholtok had 111 goals and 147 assists.
"Sergei was a great competitor and a valuable member of our organization for almost three years and will be greatly missed by his team-mates and his fans in the hockey world," Wild general manager Doug Risebrough said.
Nashville declined to make a qualifying offer to Zholtok
after the end of the season, which ended in a play-off loss to Detroit.