RIGA - Players, officials and hundreds of fans wearing the national hockey jersey and black armbands attended the funeral of the Latvian hockey player Sergei Zholtok on Nov. 8 at the House of Blackheads in Riga. Many consider Zhotok the best forward ever to come out of the hockey-loving nation.
The 31-year-old died during a game between Riga 2000 and Dinamo Minsk in Belarus on Nov. 3. He suffered heart failure about five minutes before the end of the game and collapsed in the team dressing room. Doctors fought in vain to save him for an hour.
Zholtok was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat that forced him to miss seven games in January 2003. He also missed two games last season due to dizziness and fatigue.
Zholtok played in the NHL for the Nashville Predators, and was only playing for Riga 2000 because of the ongoing NHL lockout. Zholtok also played in the NHL for Boston, Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton. He finished last season in Nashville after a trade from the Minnesota Wild in March. He scored a total of 111 goals and 147 assists during his impressive career that saw him play a total of 588 games in the NHL.
He had a career-best 26 goals for the Canadiens in 1999-2000 and was a member of the Latvian team that won the silver medal at the 1994 World Championship. While many NHL players routinely skip the world championship each spring, Zholtok regularly played for Latvia. He is survived by his wife and two sons.