The Blue Jackets said Kivlenieks’ death was the result of an 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,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said. “‘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 was 1-1-0 with a 3.40 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in two games with Columbus this season, and 2-2-2 with a 3.09 GAA and an .899 save percentage in eight NHL games (six starts) the past two seasons.
“The National Hockey League was saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic passing of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “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.”
NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Matiss Kivlenieks at the age of only 24. His passion and drive enabled him to reach the top level of hockey, which induced winning his final NHL game on May 8 with Columbus and representing Latvia at the recent World Championship. Our condolences go out to Matiss’ family, friends and teammates during this difficult time. He will be missed by all who knew him.”
David Savard, who was teammates with Kivlenieks with the Blue Jackets until being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 10, said he learned about the goalie’s death in a text Monday morning.
“We played together a long time,” the defenseman said. “That’s extremely sad news. That’s a guy who was close to the team, he traveled with the team all year long. That was a brutal wake up this morning. That was a good kid with a lot of talent who was going to be a part of the team next year or in the future. That’s extremely sad.”
Savard said the text came from former Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 11.
“Seeing all the beautiful tributes to Matiss only further cements what kind of person he was!” Foligno wrote on his Twitter account. “What a tragic loss for all of us who knew him, and I am thinking and praying for his family. Heaven gained a darn good goalie and better person. … Just way too soon. “
Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito was assistant GM with the Blue Jackets when Kivlenieks signed as an undrafted free agent May 25, 2017.
“My heart aches to learn this morning of the passing of Matiss,” Zito said. “Our Panthers family joins the NHL in sending heartfelt condolences to his family, teammates, and the Blue Jackets family during this impossibly difficult time.”
Kivlenieks played for Latvia at the 2021 IIHF World Championships and was 1-1-2 with a 2.18 GAA, .922 save percentage and one shutout in four games.
“Life is so precious and can be so fragile,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a tweet. “Hug your loved ones today. RIP Matiss, you will be dearly missed.”