The team said Kivlenieks died as the result of a “tragic accident” and suffered an apparent head injury in a fall. “Medical personnel were called immediately, but he succumbed a short time later,” the team said in a statement.
“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Matiss Kivlenieks, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his mother, Astrida, his family and friends during this devastating time,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said in a statement. “Kivi was an outstanding young man who greeted every day and everyone with a smile and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten.”
Kivlenieks started in two games for the Blue Jackets last season, and had recently played for Latvia at the IIHF World Championships. He played in eight total games in his NHL career, and was expected to compete for even more playing time next season.
Kivlenieks, who was undrafted, signed with Columbus as a free agent in 2017. He made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, 2020, stopping 31 of 32 shots to beat the New York Rangers, 2-1.
Last week, Kivlenieks and fellow Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made an appearance at the mid-Ohio raceway for a ride along event. Kivlenieks was spending the summer in the United States and was there at the time of his death, a source told ESPN.