Center collapses after excusing himself from game
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville Predators center Sergei Zholtok died Wednesday of an apparent heart ailment. He was 31.
The Predators announced that Zholtok died in Latvia, where he was playing for Riga 2000 during the NHL lockout.
"We are all saddened and shocked to hear of Sergei's sudden passing," Predators general manager David Poile said in a statement. "He was a hardworking player who was well-liked by his teammates and coaches. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Zholtok family."
TSN.ca reported Wednesday night that Zholtok excused himself from a game and collapsed and died on the way to the locker room.
Zholtok left a game in January 2003 because of dizziness and fatigue and was taken to the hospital for tests, causing concern for Wild coach Jacques Lemaire.
"I don't think he's OK," he said at the time.
Zholtok was also a late scratch two nights later against Buffalo when he skated during warmups but didn't feel well enough to play.
The forward then sat out early last season when the problems returned. Zholtok again left in the second period because of fainting spells. He returned to the hospital and was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and flulike symptoms.
After missing seven games, Zholtok was cleared by a doctor to return to the lineup.
"It's a very sad thing," former Wild teammate Filip Kuba told The Associated Press. "He was a very close friend of mine. He was a very good person. ... It's hard right now to talk about it."
Zholtok appeared in 588 NHL games from 1992 to 2004 with Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, Minnesota and Nashville. He joined the Predators on March 5 in a trade with Minnesota.
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 teammates 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 playoff loss to Detroit.
In recent years, Zholtok hooked up with fellow countryman and former Carolina Hurricanes goalie Arturs Irbe to organize an online auction of hockey memorabilia to benefit abused children in Latvia. They collected pucks, sticks and equipment autographed by more than 115 NHL players from 18 teams, including the Wild's Marian Gaborik, for sale to the highest bidder.
"Sergei was the consummate team player," Senators president Roy Mlakar said. "He will be remembered in Ottawa for his sincere involvement in our community. Moreover, he was a class human being and family man, who will be remembered as such by the Senators family."
Zholtok is survived by his wife Anna, and two sons.
He was one of my favorite players when he was with the Wild... Guess I'll have to break out the Zholtok jersey to wear to work tomorrow in memorial.