COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins announced the birth of his first child Monday and honored his late teammate and friend Matiss Kivlenieks.
Merzlikins and his wife, Aleksandra, named their son Knox Matiss Merzlikins in honor of the Blue Jackets goalie who died July 4 in a fireworks-related accident.
Kilvlenieks died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks mortar blast in Novi, Michigan, while attending a gathering at the home of Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace, whose daughter was getting married that weekend.
Kivlenieks’ best friend and fellow CBJ goalie Elvis Merzlikins was at the party when Kivlenieks was hit with the mortar blast. Merzlikins, who’s also from Latvia, said Kivlenieks saved countless lives when he was struck.
“He wasn’t my friend. He was my little brother,” Merzlikins said at a private memorial service on July 15. “He saved my son, he saved my wife and he saved me. … He died as a hero.”
At Kivlenieks’ memorial service, Merzlikins promised to give his son the middle name, Matiss.
The Blue Jackets established a memorial fund in honor of Kivlenieks to benefit youth hockey initiatives. The Matiss Kivlenieks Memorial Fund will support youth hockey initiatives in both Columbus and Kivlenieks’ home country of Latvia.