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'He had a dream and he lived his dream': Columbus Blue Jackets address death of Matiss Kivlenieks

Kivlenieks died Sunday from chest trauma caused by a fireworks mortar blast, according to a medical examiner.
Credit: AP
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) has the puck in his hand as he makes a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Members of the Columbus Blue Jackets front office spoke for the first time publicly on the death of goaltender Matis Kivlenieks.

President of Hockey Operations John Davidson said Kivlenieks was in Michigan at the home of the team’s goaltending coach Manny Legace to celebrate the wedding of Legace’s daughter.

Police reported Kivlenieks was in a hot tub at a private residence when a mortar-style firework tilted and fired at people nearby.

Police said Kivlenieks was fleeing the hot tub when he slipped and fell, hitting his head on the concrete. 

A medical examiner later confirmed that Kivlenieks ultimately died from chest trauma caused by the mortar blast.

"It was a day and a night of celebrating one of the most cherished events," Davidson said. "It ended in a horrific accident that took the life of a wonderful young man."

Originally from Latvia, Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets in May 2017. Davidson recalled 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."

Davidson then told the story about the last time he saw Kivlenieks. He had left the Blue Jackets to work with the New York Rangers.

"The Blue Jackets had a ton of injuries, [Kivlenieks] had a chance to start in goal at Madison Square Garden. It was fabulous," he said.

The start was Kivlenieks’ first in the NHL. He stopped 31 of 32 shots and the Blue Jackets won 2-1.

"We lost, but I felt good for that kid," Davidson said.

When asked about a potential memorial service in Columbus, Davidson said they are still working on finalizing details.

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