COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — During their season opening 8-2 win, the Columbus Blue Jackets paid tribute to goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks who tragically died in a fireworks accident on July 4. He was 24 years old.
The Blue Jackets raised a banner in the rafters with Kivlenieks’ name and number, which will hang above Nationwide Arena for the rest of the season. His teammate and best friend, starting goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, wore his No. 80 jersey and gave his newborn son the second name of Matiss in August.
His No. 80 is also engraved in the ice behind both nets and will remain there the rest of the season.
“It was like [Matiss] was there with me. This game was my most important game and definitely something I’ll remember forever,” Merzlikins said.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation also announced it is donating $80,000 to the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation for its “Kivi’s Kids” initiative. The money will be used to fund clinics and provide equipment for young goaltenders in his native Latvia.
The CBJ Foundation established the Matiss Kivlenieks Memorial Fund to support youth hockey initiatives in central Ohio and Latvia. The organization and McConnell family pledged $80,000 to match every donation made to the fund in Matiss’ memory. To date, more than $100,000 has been raised.