Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks dead at 24 in tragic accident

Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks died Sunday night as a result of what the organization described as a “tragic accident,” in which he suffered an apparent head injury after a fall. He was 24.

In a statement Monday morning, the Blue Jackets said medical personnel was called immediately to attend to Kivlenieks, but he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

“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,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said in a statement. “Kivi was an outstanding young man who greeted every day and everyone with a smile and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten.”

Kivlenieks, who had recently competed for his native country Latvia at the IIHF World Championships, started in two games for Columbus this NHL season. The undrafted netminder had six NHL starts and eight appearances to his name dating back to 2019-20. He was expected to compete for more playing time next season.

“Life is so precious and can be so fragile,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen tweeted. “Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed.”

After signing with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in 2017, Kivlenieks made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, 2020. He turned aside 31 of the 32 shots he faced to lift Columbus to a 2-1 victory over the Rangers.

Kivlenieks, who was dubbed the 2017 USHL Player of the Year, finishes his NHL career with a 2-2-2 record and a 3.09 goals-against average with a .899 save percentage.

“The National Hockey League was saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement Monday. “On behalf of the NHL family, we extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates in both the Blue Jackets organization and his native country of Latvia. 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.”

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