An emotional Manny Legace spoke at the memorial service for Matiss Kivlenieks this week, referring to the late Columbus Blue Jackets goalie as someone he considered part of his family.
Kivlenieks, 24, was killed when a firework explosion struck him in the chest July 4 during a party at Legace’s house in Novi, Mich. Legace was Kivlenieks’ coach with the Blue Jackets and said their relationship was like a father and son.
“Michigan was his second home,” Legace said. “A lot of you guys don’t know, but ever since Kivy joined (the Blue Jackets) he would come up and live with my wife and I every summer. He became a son to us, lived with us throughout the pandemic.”
Legace, who is a former Detroit Red Wings goalie, has remained in the Detroit area since he retired from playing. He has been working as the goaltending coach with Columbus since 2018. Legace took Kivlenieks under his wing.
“He got to become one of my family. He got to be a brother to my daughter and my son, a great friend to our nephew,” said Legace.
Kivlenieks was in town for Legace’s daughter’s wedding.
“I want to thank Matiss’ mom and dad for raising a beautiful child,” Legace said.
The former Red Wings goalie was among a list of speakers during the memorial service Thursday in Upper Arlington, Ohio. He was fighting back tears as a he spoke, but managed to work in a few jokes for levity’s sake.
“Torts even flew in, and he hates goalies,” Legace joked, referring to former Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella.
Police first said Kivlenieks slipped and hit his head while fleeing a hot tub due to a fireworks malfunction, but an autopsy revealed he was killed by blunt force trauma to the chest. The Novi Police Department has not requested charges in Kivlenieks’ death, Lt. Jason Meier said. However, it has been handed over to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
“Due to the high-profile nature, we wanted an extra set of eyes (on the case),” Meier said, adding that the police investigation was complete unless otherwise directed by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.
Meier said Kivlenieks’ death is still considered accidental.