Who was Matiss Kivlenieks?
Matiss Kivlenieks or Matīss Edmunds Kivlenieks born on 26 August 1996 was a Latvian professional ice hockey goaltender who played for Prizma Riga of the Latvian Hockey Higher League (LHL), the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League (AHL), and the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League (NHL) between 2012 and 2021. Kivlenieks died on 4 July 2021 after being accidentally struck by fireworks.
Matiss Kivlenieks Death, Cause Of Death
On 4 July 2021, Kivlenieks was fatally injured during a fireworks malfunction while at the home of Blue Jackets’ goaltending coach Manny Legace in Novi, Michigan. Kivlenieks had travelled to Legace’s home alongside teammate Elvis Merzļikins, a fellow Latvian goaltender, to celebrate Independence Day and the wedding of Legace’s daughter over the holiday weekend. Despite playing hockey in the United States since 2013, it was the first time he stayed in the country long enough in the offseason to experience the Fourth of July.
Emotional Manny Legace speaks at Matiss Kivlenieks’ memorial service
An emotional Manny Legace spoke at the memorial service for Matiss Kivlenieks this week, referring to the late Columbus Blue Jackets goalie as someone he considered part of his family.
Kivlenieks, 24, was killed when a firework explosion struck him in the chest July 4 during a party at Legace’s house in Novi, Mich. Legace was Kivlenieks’ coach with the Blue Jackets and said their relationship was like a father and son.
“Michigan was his second home,” Legace said. “A lot of you guys don’t know, but ever since Kivy joined (the Blue Jackets) he would come up and live with my wife and I every summer. He became a son to us, lived with us throughout the pandemic.”
“He got to become one of my family. He got to be a brother to my daughter and my son, a great friend to our nephew,” said Legace.
Kivlenieks was in town for Legace’s daughter’s wedding.
“I want to thank Matiss’ mom and dad for raising a beautiful child,” Legace said.
Matiss Kivlenieks Biography, Wiki
Matiss Kivlenieks was born in Riga, Latvia. His father died of natural causes when he was young. His mother and stepfather are restaurateurs. Kivlenieks had a younger sister. He fluently spoke Latvian, Russian, and after playing in the United States, English. He started playing ice hockey at age 3 or 4 after watching his cousin’s practices. At age 5, he began playing as a goaltender.
|Born||26 August 1996|
|Died||4 July 2021 (aged 24)|
Novi, Michigan, U.S.
|Height||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)|
|Weight||178 lb (81 kg; 12 st 10 lb)|
|Played for||Prizma Riga|
Columbus Blue Jackets
Matiss Kivlenieks International playing Career
By 2013, Matiss Kivlenieks had played for Latvia’s U-17 national hockey team. Kivlenieks played for the junior Latvian national team at the 2015 and 2016 IIHF World Juniors Division I Group A and was named best goaltender at both events. In 2015, his team won bronze, and in 2016 his team won gold and promotion to the top division, with Kivlenieks having a tournament leading 1.71 GAA and a .941 save percentage.
Kivlenieks was first selected to the senior Latvian national team, serving as the third-string goaltender at the 2018 IIHF World Championship. He later made his World Championship debut with Latvia as the host country of the 2021 IIHF World Championship. Kivlenieks was used as the starting goaltender as he led Latvia to its first ever win over Canada and also its first loss against Kazakhstan during the group phase.
Matiss Kivlenieks’ Death Investigation
According to Novi Police lieutenant Jason Meier, a set of fireworks were launched off a grassy area that included nine different firework tubes. “After the seventh shot, it tipped and then the eighth shot went over the hot tub and that’s when people started to scramble and it was the last shot that hit Mr. Kivlenieks,” he said. Kivlenieks was taken to Ascension Providence Hospital with extensive internal injuries, where he was later pronounced dead.
An autopsy performed on 5 July ruled Kivlenieks’ death as accidental, due to a percussive injury caused by fireworks mortar blast, resulting in a major chest trauma to his heart and lungs. Prior to the autopsy, police said Kivlenieks was believed to have slipped and hit his head on concrete while running from the malfunctioning firework. According to Novi Police lieutenant Jason Meier, the autopsy showed no signs of head trauma or external injuries to his chest. On 5 July, Meier said that the nine-shot firework was legal in Michigan and the person handling it was not impaired and had not broken state laws. Kivlenieks’ death was investigated by police as an accident.
Reactions on Matiss Kivlenieks’ Death
In a statement, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said Kivlenieks “was an outstanding young man who greeted everyone everyday with a smile and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten.” Former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said Kivlenieks “didn’t take one day for granted, which makes this tragedy even more hard to bear”.
The Latvian Ice Hockey Federation said in a statement that Kivlenieks’ death was “a great loss not only for Latvian hockey but for the entire Latvian nation.” Executives of the Latvia men’s national ice hockey team and Kivlenieks’ Blue Jackets teammate Elvis Merzļikins, a fellow Latvian goaltender, helped the Blue Jackets communicate with Kivlenieks’ mother and stepfather, neither of whom speak English, in order to plan out arrangements for a memorial service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blue Jackets and Monsters fans created makeshift memorials to Kivlenieks, placing signs, flowers, sticks, and balloons at the entrance to Nationwide Arena in Columbus and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. On July 5, a moment of silence was held for Kivlenieks before Game 4 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal.