The Columbus Blue Jackets have announced the tragic passing of Latvian goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks on Monday, July 5.
“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,” Blue Jackets’ President of Hockey Operations John Davidson said. “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.”
Details of the tragedy are foggy, but the 24-year-old suffered both head and chest injuries following what has been described as a celebration gone wrong.
Kivlenieks was with others in a hot tub but was forced to run on slippery ground after evacuating the tub due to a firework display malfunction. The medical examiner at the local coroner’s office says Kivlenieks was struck in the chest by a firework mortar blast, which led to him falling and striking his head on the ground.
Latvian medical officers arrived on the scene in short order but were unable to save Kivlenieks. He succumbed to his injuries shortly thereafter.
“The National Hockey League was saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman. “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.”
The 24-year-old signed with the Blue Jackets in the spring of 2017, went 2-2-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage in eight career NHL games. He owned a 33-35-9 record with a 3.31 goals-against average, a .896 save percentage and three shutouts in 85 career games with the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters.