This story is absolutely heartbreaking.
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins credits his late teammate Matiss Kivlenieks for saving his family’s life in a deadly fireworks incident on July 4th. Kivlenieks passed away after being struck in the chest by firework mortar.
The incident occurred in Michigan during a marriage celebration for the daughter of goalie coach Manny Legace. It’s reported that during the celebration, M80’s fireworks tipped over and started firing at people.
M80’s (also known as “salutes”) are very powerful fireworks that are banned in all 50 US states. The original M80 was a military simulator that was sold as a firecracker.
A memorial service for Kivlenieks took place Thursday. Merzlikins was one of the speakers at the event. Merzlikins claims that Kivlenieks threw himself in front of a firework that was heading directly towards Elvis and his pregnant wife.
"He saved my son, he saved my wife and he saved me. … He died as hero."
Elvis Merzlikins at the memorial service for Matiss Kivlenieks. Kivlenieks died after he was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar shell on July 4. pic.twitter.com/69C09ggG67
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) July 15, 2021
“He saved not just many lives, but when it happened, I was standing 20-30 feet back from him and I was hugging my wife”, explained Merzlikins. “He saved my son. He saved my wife and he saved me.”
Merzlikins also said that he’ll be naming his son in honor of Mattis.
“My son’s second name is going to be Mattis” said Merzlikins. “That wouldn’t just be for my wife or son. That would be for 50 other people. He died as hero. That’s not me saying it. That was the doctor saying it. If he would’ve just sit, we would have nothing.”
While we don’t know the full details yet, it appears that Kivlenieks threw himself in front of a firework that was headed for a crowd of about 50 people. If Kivlenieks hadn’t gotten in the way, this could’ve been even more devastating.
Merzlikins finished the story by saying he was pretty sure Kivlenieks was smiling while he saved his life.
You can watch the full service below:
There’s now much more meaning to Merzlikins’ heartfelt Instagram tribute to Kivlenieks. In the IG post, Merzlikins writes “You saved your last puck!”. We now understand what he meant.
One incredible final save from the Latvian netminder. Matiss Kivlenieks died a hero.