Blue Jackets’ Goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks Dies After Apparent Fireworks Malfunction

Photo: NBC Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets announced on Monday morning that goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away from injuries he sustained as a result of a fireworks malfunction in Novi, Michigan, on Sunday. Kivlenieks was attending a holiday party at the home of former Detroit Red Wings goalie Manny Legace.

Novi police previously reported that Kivlenieks slipped and hit his head while fleeing a hot tub due to a fireworks malfunction, but a Monday autopsy revealed he was killed by blunt force trauma to the chest, authorities said.

Police said the mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby Sunday night. The 24-year-old Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and tried to get clear with several other people, police Lt. Jason Meier said.

An initial autopsy report determined Kivlenieks died from chest trauma, possibly caused by the extreme force from the powerful blast of exploding fireworks, Novi police confirmed Monday afternoon.

Kivlenieks suffered major damage to his heart and lungs, according to the autopsy report from the county medical examiner.

“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,” said Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson in a statement released by the team. “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.”

An autopsy comfirmed the death as accidental. Kivlenieks’ cause of death will be recorded as “fireworks mortar blast” and “chest trauma.”

Kivlenieks, who signed with Columbus as a free agent in May 2017, went 2-2-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in eight career games with the club. He made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, 2020, stopping 31-of-32 shots to beat the New York Rangers, 2-1. He posted a 33-35-9 mark, 3.31 GAA, .896 SV% and three shutouts in 85 career games with the Cleveland Monsters, the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate from 2017-21. He represented Latvia at several international tournaments including the 2021 IIHF World Championships this spring, where he went 1-2 with a 2.18 GAA, .922 SV%, and one shutout in four games.

“The National Hockey League was saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement released by the NHL. “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.”

Kivlenieks’ former teammates reacted to the news of his passing.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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3 Responses to Blue Jackets’ Goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks Dies After Apparent Fireworks Malfunction

  1. Brianna says:

    Rest in Peace Matiss

  2. Brianna says:

    Rest in Peace Matiss we will all miss you

  3. Anonymous says:

    Life is so fragile. Love each day to the fullest. Tomorrow is but a prospect.

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