Retired Belarusian hockey player Konstantin Koltsov dies in Florida at 42

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MIAMI (AP) — Former Belarusian hockey player Konstantin Koltsov, who was coaching in the KHL, has died in Florida, police said Tuesday. He was 42.

Miami-Dade Police detective Argemis Colome confirmed Koltsov's death in a statement sent to The Associated Press. Police said the death was an apparent suicide and no foul play was suspected.

Koltsov served as an assistant coach for Salavat Yulaev Ufa the past two seasons. He also was an assistant on staff for the Belarusian men’s national team.

National team coach Dmitry Baskov called Koltsov's death “an irreparable loss.”

"Konstantin was one of the undisputable leaders of our team, a talented progressive coach, a bright player," Baskov said in a statement. “He was an example of sturdiness, hard work, dedication and an idol for many Belarusian boys and his colleagues. It’s hard and unfair when such people leave so early.”

Koltsov played in 144 NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2003-06 after being selected in the first round of the 1999 draft, putting up 12 goals and 26 assists. The Penguins in a statement extended condolences to Koltsov’s family and friends.

Koltsov played most of his career in the Russian Superleague, which morphed into the KHL, finishing with Dynamo Minsk in 2015-16 and going into coaching. Salavat Yulaev Ufa expressed sorrow for the death of Koltsov, who won a Gagarin Cup championship with the club as a player in 2010-11.

“He was a strong and cheerful person, he was loved and respected by players, colleagues, and fans,” the team said in a statement. “(Koltsov) forever wrote himself into the history of our club.”

Koltsov had been dating second-ranked women’s tennis player Aryna Sabalenka, who was scheduled to play in the Miami Open tournament that began Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Miami Open said late Tuesday afternoon that Sabalenka had not withdrawn from the event.

As one of the 32 seeded players in the women’s bracket, Sabalenka received a first-round bye. She is scheduled to make her initial appearance in the 2024 edition of the tournament in the second round on Thursday, when she would face the winner of a match between two-time major champion Simona Halep and Paula Badosa.

Messages sent to Sabalenka’s publicist were not immediately returned.

Sabalenka is a 25-year-old also from Belarus who won the Australian Open in January for her second consecutive title at Melbourne Park. She was featured during the Netflix docuseries “Break Point,” speaking emotionally about the death of her father when he was in his early 40s.

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This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports