It’s sad when we have to remember back to that horrible day. However, doing so makes us reflect on Matiss Kivlenieks life as a whole, and not just his untimely death on July 4th 2021. As you may recall from the funeral, Elvis Merzlikins, a fellow goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Latvian himself, expressed his thanks to Kivlenieks for saving his pregnant wife and himself from a wayward firework. The strike killed the 24-year-old goaltender who’d just begun his career.
Today, the Prosecutors in Michigan have officially ruled the incident an accident. It occurred at the Goaltending Coach’s home, Manny Legace, right after his daughters wedding. These findings mean that the Goaltending Coach, nor his family, will be criminally charged for the unfortunate events which occurred that evening. With the final word now handed down, the team and families involved can now truly begin the healing process.
The Matiss Kivlenieks Foundation was set up by the Columbus Blue Jackets to support hockey in Matiss’ home country of Latvia. A banner which displays his number 80 hangs high above Nationwide Arena ice, where the team both practices and plays their games. The son of Elvis Merzlikins, who Elvis credits Matiss for saving, holds his first name as his middle name: Knox Matiss Merzlikins. On the Blue Jackets opening night, Elvis Merzlikins wore his “brothers” number 80, one last time. While a fellow player, Pierre Luc Dubois has purposely changed his number to 80, as a way to remember his friend and former teammate.
All of these tributes, and more, honor a great young man gone too soon. He represented what it means to truly be part of a team in his last act upon this earth. His actions will never be forgotten by this team and their fans alike.
Rest easy, Kivi.