This was the most gut-wrenching news anyone could wake up to on Monday morning.
Reports started to surface that Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks had passed away. At the time the initial reports came out, it wasn’t known what exactly happened. Then just before 9 A.M. eastern, the team put out a statement about Kivlenieks’ death.
“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. “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.” Columbus Blue Jackets’ Official Team Statement
Within that press release, the Blue Jackets indicated that Kivlenieks suffered “an apparent head injury in a fall.” As well, “medical personnel were called immediately, but he succumbed a short time later.”
It’s with a very heavy heart that we share the news that goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away last night at the age of 24.— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) July 5, 2021
We are heartbroken. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Rest in peace, Kivi.https://t.co/o2EDRgxQ5A pic.twitter.com/FCBr0ZaH25
Later on Monday, per the coroner’s office in Oakland County, Michigan, it was determined that the cause of death for Kivlenieks was “chest trauma” from a fireworks accident. The investigation is ongoing.
There are absolutely no words that can adequately describe how tragic this was for everyone involved and for those that knew Kivlenieks best. Everyone that had the honor of knowing him said the same thing. He always had a smile on his face.
When the news of Kivlenieks’ passing got out, tributes starting coming in from all over the sporting world. From his teammates to fans to other teams in hockey and in other sports, it was clear that he was universally loved. Here is a small sample of what was said.
And in an overwhelming response, fans all over have put their hockey sticks outside their homes in honor of Kivlenieks. His last NHL game was the Blue Jackets’ home finale, a 5-4 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings. That was his first win at Nationwide Arena in his NHL career.
Kivlenieks also participated in the recently completed World Championships in his native country of Latvia. He played very well including posting a 2-0 shutout over Team Canada.
Kivlenieks was in Ohio as recently as last week when he was at Mid-Ohio Race Track. He and his teammate Elvis Merzlikins were there together zooming around the dirt with IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.
Again, there are just no words that can describe the pain and agony of this loss. Kivlenieks was as kind as anyone that I’ve ever come across. His smile always lit the room. He was always a joy to be around. And now, we will all very deeply miss his presence not only at Nationwide Arena, but in the entire hockey world.
We at the Hockey Writers join the hockey world in mourning over the passing of Kivlenieks. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones and those that were close to him.