Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks dies in fireworks accident

Detroit Free Press

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died Sunday night in a fireworks incident at a home in Novi.

Novi Police Lt. Jason Meier said the cause of death was a percussive injury to his internal organs as a result of a fireworks explosion, according to an autopsy performed Monday. Kivlenieks, a Latvia native, was 24.

“There appears to be some fireworks that accidentally went off and launched in the direction of Mr. Kivlenieks and others who were seated in the hot tub,” he said.

Paramedics were sent to the home at 10:13 p.m. and upon arrival, found Kivlenieks unresponsive. He was transported to Ascension Providence Hospital in Novi where he was pronounced dead, Meier said.

An initial investigation found that Kivlenieks fled the hot tub, slipped, fell and struck his head. But the autopsy did not reveal any trauma to Kivlenieks’ head, Meier said.

Meier told the Free Press that Novi Police have launched an investigation into Kivlenieks’ death. For the time being, that inquiry does not include a criminal investigation.

“We are still looking at this as a tragic accident,” Meier said. “Based on the new information, we definitely want to reinterview people and make sure that we have an accurate depiction of what happened.”

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There had been a large gathering at the home. Meier would not confirm the address of the private residence.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Kivlenieks had traveled to Novi to visit Manny Legace, the former Detroit Red Wings goalie and current goaltender coach for the Blue Jackets.

The Free Press left a message for Legace on Monday afternoon, but there was no immediate response.

A statement from the Blue Jackets called Kivlenieks’ death a “tragic accident.”

“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Matiss Kivlenieks, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his mother, Astrida, his family and friends during this devastating time,” said Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson.

The National Hockey League extended sympathies to Kivlenieks’ family, friends and teammates.

“His love for life and passion for the game will be deeply missed by all those who have been fortunate to have him as a teammate and a friend,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

The Red Wings shared condolences in a Tweet Monday morning.

“Sending our condolences to Matiss’ friends, family and the entire (Blue Jackets) organization.”

Former Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist, a teammate of Kivlenieks in Columbus the last two seasons, tweeted his condolences on Monday afternoon: “Rest In Peace Kivi. Sending my deepest condolences to your family, friends and everyone in the Blue Jackets organization. You were a great teammate with a bright future. I will never forget the smile you brought to the rink every single day. You will be deeply missed.”

At the age of 20, Kivlenieks signed a three-year contract with the Blue Jackets in 2017 after he was named USHL’s Player of the Year and Goaltender of the Year following a strong season with the Sioux City Musketeers.

Kivlenieks played in two games this season, on May 7 and 8 against the Red Wings. He had a 1-1 recored with a 3.40 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. In his career, he had a 3.09 GAA and a .899 save percentage in eight NHL ga

Ahead of the Fourth of July weekend, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urged those celebrating to practice fireworks safety. The commission found a 50% increase in deaths and injuries from fireworks-related incidents in 2020 compared with the previous year. The COVID-19 pandemic led many cities to cancel their fireworks shows, leading to an uptick in fireworks sales as Americans put on their own displays.

Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at Contact her at or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.

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