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'He died a hero': Blue Jackets goalie Kivlenieks saved a teammate and his pregnant wife before his death

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Earlier this month, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died of chest trauma after being struck by a fireworks mortar blast. On Thursday, Columbus teammate Elvis Merzlikins spoke at his memorial service, offering some more insight as to what happened during the tragic July 4 party. He also detailed the heroism Kivlenieks displayed moments before dying.

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Here are Merzlikins’ comments about Kivlenieks and what happened that night:

“I’m going to have a lot of experiences in my life now, I’m having a little baby coming up. He saved not just many lives, but when it happened, I was standing 20-30 feet back of him, and I was hugging my wife. He saved my son, he saved my wife and he saved me.

"My son’s second name is going to be Matiss, but except that, if that wasn’t me, or my wife or son, that would be 50 other people. He died as a hero, and that’s not me saying, that was the doctors saying. If he would just sit, it would’ve happened nothing. As Sabrina said, ‘he saved his last puck.’ I just want to let you know that he was a hero, and he saved a lot of lives. And I’m pretty sure he did that with a smile, because it’s true.”

Late Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks saved lives before he died. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Late Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks saved lives before he died. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It was an extremely touching yet heartbreakingly emotional speech from Merzlikins, who had to talk about a friend he lost way too soon. Kivlenieks was only 24 years old when he died.

A number of people from the hockey world have also shared their stories and expressed their condolences. Like Merzlikins, many noted how Kivlenieks always had a smile on his face.

It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word, and Merzlikins’ eulogy illustrated just what kind of person Kivlenieks was.

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