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‘He’s inspired a country’: Friends, family honor Columbus Blue Jackets’ Matiss Kivlenieks with service

Friends and family hailed Columbus Blue Jackets’ goalie Matiss Kivlenieks a hero during a service in his honor.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A private memorial service Thursday honored Matiss Kivlenieks, who was killed in a fireworks incident on July 4.

The memorial service, first announced by the Columbus Blue Jackets, took place at Schoedinger Funeral Home in Upper Arlington.

You can watch that service below: 

"July 4, that night, getting that call was very tough," said CBJ head coach Brad Larson. "My heart just sank." 

"He's inspired a country, he's inspired a young generation of goalies," Larson continued. "He's impacted so many people." 

Columbus Blue Jackets player Nate Gerbe was one of many who spoke at the service, detailing the time he first met Kivlenieks. 

"We have three rules in our house. It's respect, it's good attitude, and it's hard work," Gerbe said. "Isn't that Kivi?" 

Many who spoke made a point to mention Kivlenieks' smile, and how his personality shone through it. 

When he spoke, CBJ goaltender Elvis Merzlikins described Kivlenieks as a brother, not a friend

Merzlikins went on to say Kivlenieks saved him and his pregnant wife the night that he died. 

In addition to the memorial service, the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation has established the Matiss Kivlenieks Memorial Fund to support youth hockey initiatives in Columbus and his home country of Latvia.

To honor Kivlenieks' jersey No. 80,  the organization and the McConnell family have pledged $80,000 to match every donation made in Matiss' memory.

The club said all contributions that have already been made to the foundation in his name will be directed to this fund.

Kivlenieks died on July 4 after being hit by a mortar-style firework at the home of the club's goaltending coach in Michigan. A medical examiner confirmed the 24-year-old died from chest trauma caused by the mortar blast.

Police in Novi, Michigan, where the incident took place, did not file any charges, but they have sent the case to the local prosecutor's office for review.

The Blue Jackets and their fans have mourned Kivlenieks since his death a little more than a week ago.

During a press conference on July 7, President of Hockey Operations John Davidson talked about the first time he met Kivlenieks four years ago.

"[Mattis] was a just a young man, a kid actually, who had dreams and wanted to be a NHL goaltender and we wanted to have him come be a part of the Blue Jackets organization," Davidson said. "You could see the passion in his face, you could hear it in his voice. He had a dream and he lived his dream."

The day the news of his death broke, fans went to Nationwide Arena to leave loving signs and hockey sticks as a sign of respect for Kivlenieks.

Fans also went to R Bar Arena to honor his life. R Bar was scheduled to be closed on July 5, but the bar's owner said he worked with staff to open for the night so fans could have a gathering place to mourn.

The National Hockey League also held a moment of silence for Kivlenieks ahead of last week's Stanley Cup Finals game.

Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets in May 2017 and made his debut in January 2020 with a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers.

Kivlenieks also represented Latvia during several international tournaments this year.

The service was private and limited to family, friends and invited guests. It was also streamed live on BlueJackets.com. 


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