COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen addressed the media Wednesday at 3 p.m. to discuss the tragic death of 24-year-old goalie Matiss Kivlenieks.
Kivlenieks died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks mortar blast on July 4 in Novi, Michigan, according to the medical examiner in Michigan who performed the autopsy.
Davidson and Kekalainen did not take questions about the incident since the investigation is ongoing.
“He was just a young man, a kid actually who had dreams to be an NHL goaltender and we wanted him to be part of the Blue Jackets organization,” Davidson said. “He had a dream and he lived his dream.”
The team initially reported his death was due to an apparent head injury suffered during a fall out of a hot tub.
The fire department and EMTs got to the home of Blue Jackets’ goaltending coach Manny Legace at about 10:13 p.m. on Sunday. They rushed Kivlenieks to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Novi Police Lt. Jason Meier said.
“This is about Kivi and his family, but it’s also about the extended family we belong to — the Blue Jackets family,” Davidson said. “This was Manny’s daughter’s wedding and all those people were there.”
One of those people there was CBJ goaltender Elvis Merzlikins who has been working as a translator for Kivlenieks’ family who live in Latvia.
Kekalainen said the organization has professional counselors available for players, coaches and other staff members. Kivlenieks was signed as a free agent by Columbus on May 25, 2017. He played eight NHL games.
“We projected him as full-time NHL goalie,” Kekalainen said. “We felt that he was going to be a part of our future.”
Davidson was asked about whether a memorial service would be held in Columbus for Kivlenieks.
“We’re hoping to get that finalized shortly and we’ll let everyone know,” Davidson said.
Since his death, fans throughout Ohio have been leaving hockey sticks outside their homes and Nationwide Arena with the hashtag #SticksOutForKikvi.