‘He died a hero’: Teammate says NHL goalie Kivlenieks saved others in deadly fireworks incident

Matiss Kivlenieks killed July 4 at home in Novi, Michigan

'He died a hero': Friend says NHL goalie saved others in fireworks incident
'He died a hero': Friend says NHL goalie saved others in fireworks incident

COLUMBUS, Ohio. – A memorial service was held on Thursday outside Columbus to honor the life of NHL goalie Matiss Kivlenieks.

Kivlenieks, 24, was killed when a firework explosion struck him in the chest July 4 during a party at Manny Legace’s house in Novi. Legace was Kivlenieks’ coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Read: Emotional Manny Legace speaks at Matiss Kivlenieks’ memorial service: ‘He became a son to us’

Legace spoke publicly for the first time about what happened that night and the heartbreak it has caused. He said his relationship with Kivlenieks was like father and son.

“I love you. I will always love you. You were my son and you’re a great friend to everybody here,” Legace said.

Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzļikins said he was standing right there with his pregnant wife when the mortar was heading in their direction.

“He saved my son, my wife and me,” Merzļikins said. “He died a hero.”

He said he believes Kivlenieks blocked the mortar to keep it from hitting anyone else.

About the Authors:

Shawn Ley is an Emmy-Award winning reporter. In more than 20 years covering stories in television news, Shawn’s reporting has taken him from war-torn eastern Europe, to reporting from an F-16 fighter jet and now to the fast and furious breaking news of Detroit.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.