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Blue Jackets’ Matīss Kivlenieks dies following fireworks-related accident

Matiss Kivlenieks

COLUMBUS, OH - MAY 8: Goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks #80 of the Columbus Blue Jackets defends the net against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena on May 8, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Blue Jackets goaltender Matīss Kivlenieks has died following a Fourth of July fireworks accident. The Oakland County medical examiner determined the 24-year-old passed away from chest trauma caused by a fireworks mortar blast. Police in Novi, Mich. earlier said it was due to a fall.

"[T]he mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby Sunday night,” according to the Associated Press. “The 24-year-old Kivleniek was in a hot tub and tried to get clear with several other people, police Lt. Jason Meier said.”

The undrafted Kivlenieks signed a three-year contract with the Blue Jackets in 2017 where he would spend the following three seasons mainly in the American Hockey League and ECHL. He inked a two-year extension last October and played eight games with the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate this past season. He made eight career NHL appearances.

From the Blue Jackets:

“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.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement:

“The National Hockey League was saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman. “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.”

Kivlenieks also represented Lativa on the international stage at several tournaments. He was most recently in net at the IIHF World Championship in May where he made four appearances, which included a shutout of Canada in their opening game.

UPDATE: The Canadiens and Lightning held a moment of silence before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final:


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.