Columbus Blue Jackets’ goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away at the age of 24 on July 4, with a medical examiner attributing his death to being struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar blast. A memorial service was held for Kivlenieks in Arlington, Ohio Wednesday (the full service can be seen on the Blue Jackets’ YouTube channel here), and some particularly remarkable comments came from teammate and fellow goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. Merkzlikins (seen above) gave a passionate eulogy saying that Kivlenieks saved him, his wife, and his unborn son, as they were standing behind him when Kivlenieks was struck by the blast. Here’s that clip via The Sporting News:
"He saved my son, he saved my wife and he saved me. … He died as hero."
Elvis Merzlikins at the memorial service for Matiss Kivlenieks. Kivlenieks died after he was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar shell on July 4. pic.twitter.com/69C09ggG67
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) July 15, 2021
Here’s a transcription of some of that from Aaron Portzline of The Athletic:
“(Kivlenieks) saved not just many lives, but when it happened I was standing 20-30 feet back of him,” Merzlikins said. “I was hugging my wife. He saved my (unborn) son. He saved my wife and saved me.
“He died as a hero. That’s not me saying it, that was the doctor saying it. I just wanted you to know that he was a hero. He saved a lot of lives. And I’m pretty sure he did it with a smile.”
When Merzlikins’ wife, Aleksandra, gives birth to the couple’s first child in September, the baby’s “second name” will be Matiss, Merzlikins said.
“I’m happy that in this life, I told him everything that I could,” Merzlikins said. “Every single day I told him that I really love him, I told him he was my brother, not just my friend.”
…“For all of (Kivlenieks’) family, if ever you need any help, I’m gonna be there. Because I know that Kivi would there for my mom and my family. I’m going to be there always for you. You can always think that I’m your brother, (Madara, Kivlenieks’ young stepsister), and I’m going to love you as my little sister.”
That’s a remarkable speech. The details of exactly what happened in Kivlenieks’ death still aren’t clear (the Novi, Michigan police report is currently being reviewed by the Oakland County, Mich., prosecutor before its public release), but Merzlikins’ praise for him is certainly notable. And his eulogy, and others from this service, illustrate just how much Kivlenieks will be missed by many.