‘Way too young’: Tragedy hits ice hockey as Latvian NHL star Matiss Kivlenieks dies aged 24 after ‘suffering head injury in fall’
The news of Kivlenieks' passing was confirmed on social media by several figures close to the situation, as well as the Blue Jackets themselves.
Initial details of the hockey star's passing state that his death was the result of a tragic accident after he suffered an apparent head injury following a fall.
Medical personnel were called to the scene but unfortunately Kivlenieks is understood to have died from his injuries a short time later.
It’s with a very heavy heart that we share the news that goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away last night at the age of 24.We are heartbroken. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.Rest in peace, Kivi.https://t.co/o2EDRgxQ5Apic.twitter.com/FCBr0ZaH25— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) July 5, 2021
Kivlenieks, who was a native of the Latvian capital of Riga, entered the NHL as an undrafted rookie before the 2017 season.
After an apprenticeship with development side the Cleveland Monsters, he signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jackets before the 2020 season and has appeared in 8 total games in the past two years.
During the time he went 2-2-2 as a goaltender, averaging 3.09 goals conceded and a save percentage of .889.
Kivlenieks was also a star for Latvia at the recent World Hockey Championship which took place in his home country, and in which he was crucial to his team's shutout win against the future world champion Canadian team in the opening game of the tournament.
"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," a statement from Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson reads.
"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."
Incredibly sad news for hockey fans everywhere. He had loads of potential, he showed that at the Worlds playing for Latvia. Kept reading that Columbus was going to trade a goalie so they could promote him to the back up role. 24 is crazy young. Just heartbreaking.— Always Tkachuking (@SensRapsJays) July 5, 2021
I just saw him playing the Worlds... Too soon 😥— Jari Nikkinen 🇫🇮🌍 (@Jarska96) July 5, 2021
Rest In Peace. Way too young— Matty 🍒 (@MatthaisDude) July 5, 2021
"Incredibly sad news for hockey fans everywhere. He had loads of potential, he showed that at the Worlds playing for Latvia. Kept reading that Columbus was going to trade a goalie so they could promote him to the back up role," was one fan's reaction to the news.
"I just saw him playing the Worlds... Too soon," said another.
"Rest In Peace. Way too young," came the thoughts of a third.