1:57 PM PDT, July 16, 2021
The late NHL Goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, who was killed during a fireworks accident on the Fourth of July, was remembered as a “hero” at a memorial service on Thursday, according to reports.
Kivlenieks died from chest trauma after he was struck by a high-powered mortar firework on the left side of his check and suffered major damage to his heart and lungs, according to the Oakland County medical examiner’s office, Inside Edition Digital previously reported.
At Thursday’s service, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins told the mourners that Kivlenieks was more than a friend. “He was my little brother,” he said, noting that it was Kivlenieks who shielded his pregnant wife and many others from the fireworks.
“I was standing 20-30 feet back of him and I was hugging my wife,” Merzlikins told WBNS. “He saved my son. He saved my wife and he saved me.”
He added: “My son’s second name is going to be Matiss,” he said. “He died a hero.”
The unexpected tragedy took place at Manny Legace’s home, the same day of his daughter’s wedding. According to Merzlikins, there were about 80 people at the home.
Journalist Mark Sheik, who covers hockey, wrote on Twitter that, “Matiss Kivlenieks was a prankster. He wasn’t a morning person without his coffee. He was a perfectionist. But he was also cherished, hard working & very respected. After learning what we did today, he’s also a hero.”
The Blue Jackets have created the Matiss Kivlenieks Memorial Fund to support youth hockey initiatives in Columbus and in Latvia. The team and the McConnell family have pledged $80,000 to match every donation made in Matiss’ memory, according to The Hockey Writer.
The Columbus Blue Jackets features the Memorial Fund on their homepage.
“Matiss Kivlenieks brought joy to everyone that knew him. Today we are celebrating his life and remembering the wonderful person that he was.”