COLUMBUS (Ohio) - The NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets announced that a memorial fund has been established to honor Latvian goalie Matiss Kivlenieks who died at the age of 24 from a fireworks-related incident on July 4, US media report.
Joined by founder John H. McConnell's family and the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, the team created the Matiss Kivlenieks Memorial Fund.
Contributions from the fund will go to support youth hockey initiatives in both Columbus and Latvia, where Kivlenieks is from, and will be matched up to USD 80,000, the team said.
Kivlenieks was attending the wedding of Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace's daughter at a home in Novi, Michigan on July 4. He was in a hot tub when a fireworks malfunction at the home occurred. Kivlenieks was trying to get out of the hot tub when he slipped and fell, hitting his head.
While police originally believed the goalie died from head trauma, an autopsy revealed Kivlenieks died from a percussive injury which caused damage to his organs, meaning it was the shock of the firework explosion that led to his death, not him slipping and hitting his head on the concrete.
"Our focus has been on family, both Matiss' in Latvia and our own Blue Jackets family here and we're doing everything we can to support everyone," said John Davidson, Blue Jackets president of hockey operations during a July 7 press conference. "I'd also like to thank our fans, the Columbus community and the hockey world for the outpouring of love they've showed Kivi these past three days. It's been spectacular. The prayers and messages of support have been overwhelming and very much appreciated by all of us."
A Riga native, Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in May 2017, going 2-2-2- with a 3.09 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in his eight career games with Columbus.
Kivlenieks played most of his games with the Cleveland Monsters, the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate, notching a 33-35-9 record with a 3.31 GAA, .896 SV% and three shutouts in his 85 games with the Monsters.
The team also announced that a memorial service will be held to celebrate the life of Kivlenieks on Thursday at 10 a.m.
While it is a private service limited to family, friends and invited guests, fans and others unable to attend will be able to view a livestream of the service on the team's website.