Blue Jackets Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks Dies at 24 After Being Struck by Fireworks

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJuly 5, 2021

Latvia's goalkeeper Matiss Kivlenieks tries to make save during the Group B match between Latvia and Canada at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga, Latvia, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Edijs Palens/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Edijs Palens/Xinhua via Getty Images

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died Sunday of chest trauma after being hit by an "errant fireworks mortar blast" according to an autopsy (via ESPN).

Authorities originally reported that Kivlenieks died as the result of a head injury suffered in an accidental fall. 

He was 24.

"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." 


Statement from NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr on the tragic passing of Matiss Kivlenieks: <a href="https://t.co/p22vTm1j9h">pic.twitter.com/p22vTm1j9h</a>

The club did not provide further details. Kivlenieks played eight games over two seasons with the Blue Jackets.

The Latvian was in goal for his country at the 2021 IIHF World Championship, leading it to a win over Canada in the group phase of the event and a loss against Kazakhstan. His rise up the ranks was considered unlikely, as he worked his way up through the lower levels of hockey after leaving Latvia.

A breakout while playing with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL during the 2016-17 season led to him signing with the Blue Jackets. He made his NHL debut in January 2020.

Kivlenieks spent most of his time with the Blue Jackets playing for their AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters.