As the hockey world mourns the loss of Blue Jackets goalkeeper Matiss Kivlenieks, who died on Sunday evening after a bizarre fireworks accident, Alexandar Georgiev of the Rangers came in with some heartfelt words for his fellow netminder.
“I’ve always had so much respect for him,” says Georgiev wrote in an Instagram story on Monday morning. “Same age as me, unsigned goalkeeper who, against all odds, chases his dreams. You have inspired many, Rest in Peace Matiss.”
Kivlenieks, who recently competed for his native Latvia in the IIHF World Championship, died of chest trauma as a result of a fireworks explosion, according to the AP. In a statement Monday morning, the Blue Jackets said medical personnel were called to attend Kivlenieks, but he succumbed to his injuries a short time later. He was 24.
Several Kivlenieks current and former Columbus teammates have spoken out after the tragic accident, as have many others in all different hockey leagues.
“Words are hard to find right now, but the day we put on the same jersey, it meant we would be family forever,” said Nathan Gerbe, Blue Jackets forward. “When my kids play Kivi ‘the kid’ in the goal, it takes on a bigger meaning!! RIP boy love you brother.”
Former Columbus captain Nick Foligno added: “Seeing all the beautiful tributes to Matiss just confirms what kind of person he was! What a tragic loss for all of us who knew him and I think and pray for his family. Heaven got a damn good goalkeeper and a better person… Just, way too soon. RIP Kivi.”
The Blue Jackets started with the hashtag #SticksOutforKivi, and many fans have put their hockey sticks outside their homes in honor of Kivlenieks.
“I love you brother,” Blue Jackets center Max Domi wrote on Twitter. “Rest in peace.”