NHL rocked by star's shocking death at 24 in fireworks accident

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·Sports Editor
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Matiss Kivlenieks, pictured here before his tragic death at age 24.
Matiss Kivlenieks died at age 24 after being struck by fireworks. Image: Instagram/Getty

The sporting world is mourning the tragic death of NHL star Matiss Kivlenieks, who died on Sunday night in a fireworks accident.

The Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender died after suffering chest trauma caused by a fireworks mortar blast.

He was just 24.

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The Oakland County Medical Examiner's office reported preliminary results on Monday after an autopsy. 

Police said the mortar-style device began to tilt and fire at a group of people at a Fourth of July party. 

Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and among those trying to exit the tub to get out of the way. Investigators are calling his death accidental.

The Detroit News said he was taken to Ascension Providence Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"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," John Davidson, president of hockey operations, said in a team 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 organisation will not be forgotten."

Police originally said the Latvian died from a head injury while hurriedly trying to get out of the hot tub amid a fireworks malfunction. 

Police deemed it a "tragic accident," saying Kivlenieks fell and hit his head on the concrete.

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Hockey world devastated over Matiss Kivlenieks' death

An undrafted free agent from Riga, Latvia, Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets in May 2017 and spent most of his time with the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League. 

With the Blue Jackets, he played in two games in 2020-21 and six (four starts) in the prior season and had a career record of 2-2-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. 

He made his NHL debut on the road against the New York Rangers on January 19, 2020, getting the win in the 2-1 game after saving 31 of 32 shots.

Matiss Kivlenieks, pictured here in action for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2020.
Matiss Kivlenieks in action for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2020. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He played for Team Latvia in the 2021 IIHF World Championships this year and was 1-2 with a 2.18 GAA, .922 save percentage and one shutout in four games.

"One thing I loved and appreciated about him was he had a great smile and always was in a good mood," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno told ESPN. 

"I know it's cliche, but that's exactly the kind of guy he was. 

"Just enjoying his life as a 24-year-old living out his dream and you could tell he didn't take one day for granted, which makes this tragedy even more hard to bear, Praying for his family and all of us who knew him. 

"Hard day for a lot of people in that organisation."

Tributes have also been flooding social media.

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with Reuters

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