The hockey community is mourning the tragic death of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks. The 24-year-old Latvian netminder passed away on July 4th, 2021 in Michigan as a result of a fireworks accident.
It’s with a very heavy heart that we share the news that goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away last night at the age of 24.
We are heartbroken. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) July 5, 2021
Aaron Portzline of the Athletic reports Kivlenieks died of chest trauma after being struck by firework mortar. It was initially reported that Kivlenieks passed away from a fall while trying to flee a hot tub during fireworks celebrations.
Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in May 2017 and appeared in eight games with the club. He made his NHL debut against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, 2020. Kivlenieks also appeared in 85 games for the Cleveland Monsters, Columbus’ AHL affiliate.
Kivlenieks most recently appeared in the 2021 IIHF World Championships with Team Latvia. The netinder posted a 1-2 record with an impressive .922 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. One of the highlights of the entire tournament was Kivlenieks shutting out Team Canada. It was the first time Latvia ever beat Canada.
Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson issued the following statement in a press release:
“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Matiss Kivlenieks, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his mother, Astrida, his family and friends during this devastating time. Kivi was an outstanding young man who greeted every day and everyone with a smile and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten.” – John Davidson
There has been an outpouring of support from the hockey community since the tragic news of Kivlenieks’ death broke Monday morning. Kivlenieks’ teammates in Columbus, as well as several prominent hockey figures, have weighed in to pay their respects.
Columbus forwards Nathan Gerbe, Max Domi, Alexandre Texier, Gustav Nyquist and Cam Atkinson, in addition to defenseman Scott Harrington and goalie Elvis Merzlikins, took to social media to offer their condolences.
“Words are hard to find right now, but the day we put the same jersey on meant that we would be family forever”, Gerbe tweeted. “When my kids play Kivi “the kid” in goal it will have a greater meaning!! RIP kid, love you brother#cbj #familyforever”
Words are hard to find right now, but the day we put the same jersey on meant that we would be family forever. When my kids play Kivi “the kid” in goal it will have a greater meaning!! RIP kid, love you brother 😢 #cbj #familyforever pic.twitter.com/J2te4QuAB9
— Nathan Gerbe (@NathanGerbe14) July 5, 2021
Domi, Texier, Harrington, Nyquist and Atkinson also tweeted out heartfelt tributes:
Love you brother. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/0qqLSDDosI
— Max Domi (@maxdomi) July 5, 2021
RIP 🙏🏻❤️ https://t.co/eSWY6Azvty
— Alexandre Texier (@atexier99) July 5, 2021
Rest In Peace Kivi. You were one of the nicest people I’ve met through this great game. We’ll all miss the energy and love for life that you possessed. My prayers go out to your family, hopefully they will see the impact you had on everyone who knew you ❤️#SticksOutForKivi pic.twitter.com/4YOA6VGusn
— Scott Harrington (@S_Harrington06) July 5, 2021
Rest In Peace Kivi. Sending my deepest condolences to your family, friends and everyone in the Blue Jackets organization. You were a great teammate with a bright future. I will never forget the smile you brought to the rink every single day. You will be deeply missed.
— Gustav Nyquist (@GNyquist) July 5, 2021
🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼 RIP Kivi. Love you buddy ❤️ https://t.co/AZjzZxaXsG
— Cam Atkinson (@CamAtkinson13) July 5, 2021
Merzlikins published a really thoughtful tribute on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen tweeted out, “Life is so precious and can be so fragile. Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed.”
Life is so precious and can be so fragile. Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed.
— Jarmo Kekalainen (@jkekalainen) July 5, 2021
Kivlenieks’ former teammate, Nick Foligno, weighed in after tributes flooded in for the Columbus goalie.
“Seeing all the beautiful tributes to Matiss only further cements what kind of person he was! What a tragic loss for all of us who knew him and I am thinking and praying for his family. Heaven gained a darn good goalie and better person… Just, way too soon. RIP Kivi!”
Seeing all the beautiful tributes to Matiss only further cements what kind of person he was! What a tragic loss for all of us who knew him and I am thinking and praying for his family. Heaven gained a darn good goalie and better person… Just, way too soon.
RIP Kivi! 🙏😢❤️ https://t.co/k2XWVXmfYE
— Nick Foligno (@NickFoligno) July 5, 2021
This video of Kivlenieks receiving the “Player of the Game” hat from Atkinson after his first career NHL win is simply heartbreaking.
— kate 8️⃣0️⃣❤️🇱🇻 (@nhlmerzlikins) July 5, 2021
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following statement:
“The National Hockey League was saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks. On behalf of the NHL family, we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates in both the Blue Jackets organization and his native country of Latvia. His love for life and passion for the game will be deeply missed by all those who have been fortunate to have him as a teammate and a friend.” – Gary Bettman
Please keep Matiss Kivlenieks and his family in your thoughts today.