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Blue Jackets Executives Fondly Remember Matiss Kivlenieks

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) has the puck in his hand as he makes a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers in New York, in this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020
Kathy Willens
/
AP
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) has the puck in his hand as he makes a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers in New York, in this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. Kivlenieks died on July 5, 2021 following a fireworks accident.

Columbus Blue Jackets executives spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since the Fourth of July fireworks accident that took the life of up-and-coming goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks.

“He made people smile. He’s just a great kid. So, we’ll do what we can to help anybody that needs it,” the team’s president of hockey operations John Davidson said. “I’ve seen a lot of down faces around here.”

In the days since his death, Kivlenieks has repeatedly been described as a likeable and approachable young man on the cusp of regular playing time.

"His debut in the NHL was a great success and we had him play those games at the end of the season for a reason because we felt that he was going to be a big part of our future," Blue Jackets' General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

Kivlenieks, a 24-year-old native of Latvia, died Sunday from a “percussive” injury after police in Novi, Michigan said he was struck in the chest by an errant fireworks mortar.

Witnesses say Kivlenieks collapsed after being hit while exiting a hot tub at the home of Blue Jackets goaltenders coach Manny Legace. Kivlenieks had gone there for the weekend wedding of Legace's daughter.

Police have repeatedly said there are no indications of foul play and the death is being investigated as an accident.

"I'm confident in the people that were there, this to me seems like a tragic accident, but the police report will take care of that,” Davidson said.

Team executives said they are working with his family in Latvia to arrange memorial services and have made grief counselors available to any team employees who request help.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.