Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks dies at 24 in tragic accident

Goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks of the Columbus Blue Jackets has died at age 24.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away in Michigan on Sunday night after a tragic fireworks accident.

The 24-year-old netminder from Riga, Latvia, died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks mortar blast. Medical personnel were immediately called to the scene, but he succumbed to his injury shortly after.

Prior to the autopsy being completed, Novi, Mich., police said Kivlenieks was believed to have slipped and hit his head on concrete while running from a hot tub after a firework malfunction.

"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 John Davidson in the team’s statement. "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."

After signing with the Blue Jackets in 2017 as an undrafted free agent, Kivlenieks spent two years primarily in the AHL and was able to make his NHL debut in January 2019, saving 31 of 32 shots in a win over the New York Rangers. He most recently represented Latvia at the 2021 IIHF World Championships, where he made four starts and earned a .922 save percentage.

"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 on Monday. “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.”

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