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.
Our thoughts are with Kivi’s family and the Blue Jackets organization during this difficult time ❤️
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 5, 2021
“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.”
We are shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Matiss Kivlenieks and send our heartfelt condolences to the Kivlenieks family and to all of his teammates and friends at this time.
— Cleveland Monsters (@monstershockey) July 5, 2021
Kivlenieks’ former teammates reacted to the news of his passing.
David Savard says he learned of former teammate Matiss Kivlenieks’ death in a text from Nick Foligno: “That was a brutal wake up this morning. He was a good kid with a lot of talent who was going to be a part of the team next year or in the future. It’s extremely sad.”
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 5, 2021
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
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) July 5, 2021
By Harrison Brown