Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks has died at the age of 24.
The Blue Jackets confirmed the news Monday morning, saying the death was a result of a "tragic accident" in which Kivlenieks suffered an apparent head injury in a fall.
"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," Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson said in a 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."
Following an autopsy, the official cause of death was ruled “fireworks mortar blast, chest trauma,” not a head injury as first suspected.
The native of Latvia went undrafted but signed a three-year entry-level contract with Columbus before the 2017-18 campaign. He spent the majority of his time with the AHL's Cleveland Monsters.
Kivlenieks re-signed a two-year deal before the 2020-21 campaign and appeared in eight games for the Blue Jackets over the past two seasons, going 2-2-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and a 0.899 save percentage.
Kivlenieks also played for Latvia at the recent World Hockey Championship, going 1-2 with a 2.18 GAA. His only win came against the eventual gold-medal winning Canadians in the opener of the tournament.