The 24-year old goalie’s mother and sister are now in Columbus, after traveling more than 4,500 miles from Latvia.
Memorial services for Matiss Kivlenieks have been determined and a memorial fund has been established for the former Blue Jackets’ goalie, who died July 4 in a fireworks accident.
Kivlenieks, 24, will be memorialized 10.m. Thursday at Schoedinger Funeral Home in Upper Arlington with a private service to celebrate his life. Attendance will be limited to family, friends and invited guests.
His mother, Astrida, and younger sister recently arrived in Columbus from Latvia, making a trip that surpassed 4,500 miles.
The Matiss Kivlenieks Memorial Fund will support youth hockey in Columbus and Latvia. The Blue Jackets and McConnell family — the team’s majority owners — have pledged to match up to $80,000 in donations to the fund, which has already received donations that were made to the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation in Kivlenieks’ name.
Kivlenieks died as the result of a fireworks mishap at the home of Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace, who was hosting a wedding and celebration for his daughter. A police report has not been released with details on how the accident occurred.
Blue Jackets coaches, players, staff and brass have mourned Kivlenieks’ death since the news broke early July 5. The team has also worked with the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation and Kivlenieks’ family to make arrangements for the memorial service.
Blue Jackets fans have also mourned the goalie’s passing.
Many placed hockey sticks on their front porches as part of a #SticksOutForKivi movement online and others created a makeshift memorial at Nationwide Arena with posters, balloons, flowers and handwritten notes.
Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins and his wife, Aleksandra, created a poster for the shrine that displayed a handwritten message to fans about Kivlenieks and his smile — which many have noted as an unforgettable part of knowing him.
Kivlenieks was living with the couple since returning to Columbus on June 23.
“To whoever passes by … know that he would want you to smile and not cry!” the Merzlikins poster said. “So, look up in the sky, say ‘Don’t worry about it,’ and give him the biggest smile!”
Kivlenieks came to the U.S. to play Tier III junior hockey at age 17 and made a lot of friends along his NHL path. He also taught himself English and overcame challenging odds to become a Blue Jackets goalie.
After spending parts of four years with the Cleveland Monster, the Jackets’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, Kivlenieks was in position to log his first full NHL campaign next season. He might’ve handled the team’s backup role if one of the top two goalies — Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo — is traded this offseason.
Hockey isn’t on the minds of Kivlenieks’ family and friends, though. Memories are what matter most and “Kivi” left many of those to comfort those now grieving him.