Published Friday, 23 November 2012
Kaspars Astašenko in action for Latvia at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. (© Getty)
The news was made public on Friday morning by the Latvian Hockey Federation, as Astašenko was a former national team player.
He represented his country at several major events, with his career highlights including the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2006 IIHF World Championships in his hometown of Riga.
He was a great guy and an excellent teammate, very popular with the guys and always smiling.
Todd Kelman, Belfast Giants
"Kaspars was an elite hockey player - he played in the top league in the world when he was 20-years-old," Belfast Giants general manager Todd Kelman said.
"He was only with the Giants for a short time, but he made a big impact with his teammates. This is very sad news and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."
Astašenko's career began in his hometown, before he made the move to Russia's CSKA Moscow.
Three years later, the defenceman headed to the US and racked up five seasons in the NHL with Tampa Bay Lightning before returning to Europe.
Having played in Latvia, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Slovakia, Italy, Kazakhstan and the UK, he ended his career last season after playing back in Riga and for Finnish fourth-tier team Muik Nykarleby.