Former Kalamazoo Wings Goalie, 24, Dies in Fireworks Tragedy in Novi
A private fireworks celebration in Novi, Michigan went horribly wrong Sunday night. The medical examiner in Novi says mortar shell tipped slightly and exploded into the chest of Matiss Kivlenieks, a former K-Wings goalie, who had made it to the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Early report said he had fallen and suffered head trauma, but the autopsy report released Monday afternoon said it was the blast to the chest that killed him.
Police in Novi, Michigan, said the mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward people nearby Sunday night. The 24-year-old Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and tried to get clear with several other people, police Lt. Jason Meier said. - ESPN
Kivlenieks, a native of Latvia, wasn't drafted and signed with Columbus in 2017. He made his NHL debut in 2020, beating the New York Rangers 2-1. He played a total of eight games in his NHL career, including two this past season, splitting time between Columbus and the Blue Jackets' farm team in Cleveland (and between Cleveland and Kalamazoo in 2018-2019). He also played four games for Latvia at the World Championships this spring. He was seen as the potential back up goaltender in Columbus this coming season, if the Blue Jackets were to move either of the incumbent goalies, Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins were moved in the offseason.
The Detroit Free-Press tweeted Monday: "Matiss Kivlenieks and fellow Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins said last week they were heading to Novi for the weekend to visit Manny Legace, the former Red Wings goalie and current Columbus goaltender coach."
ESPN says just this past week Kivlenieks and Merzlikins made an appearance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a ride-along event.
Kalamazoo Wings coach Nick Bootland tweeted a video Monday: "He's the reason us coaches get up, because we want to help people reach their dreams. He was the epitome of that, he did that every day with a smile on his face."