ICE hockey star Matiss Kivlenieks "died a hero" after he saved a teammate and his pregnant wife from the firework that killed him.

Elvis Merzlikins told a memorial service: "He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me."

Merzlikins said he and wife Aleksandra will now name their child in honor of Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss.

He added: "He saved not just many lives, but when it happened, I was standing 20, 30 feet back of him and I was hugging my wife.

"He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me.

"That's not just what I said. That's what the doctor said. And as Sabrina said, he saved his last puck.

"He wasn't a friend, he was my little brother."


NHL ice hockey star Kivlenieks, 24, had been sat in a hot tub during a wedding at a home in Novi, Michigan, when he was hit the chest by a nine-shot firework on July 4.

The Hawaiian-themed nuptials were being hosted by his head coach Manny Legace.

Legace said at the memorial: "Michigan was his second home.

"A lot of you guys don't know, but ever since Kivi joined our organization, he would come up and live with my wife and I every summer. He became a son to us. He lived with us through the pandemic.

"I got to play golf with him every day in the summer. Got to hang out with him, play cards. He had that smile that, he was going to get you. He got to become one of my family."

Cops say the mortar-style firework tilted slightly and started to fire toward a group of people who attempted to flee.

Kivlenieks was tragically hit and he was taken to hospital – where he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.


Lt. Jason Meier said the "fireworks had not been going on for very long" when the goalie was struck at the gathering about 28 miles northwest of Detroit.

He added that the firework being used was legal in Michigan, and that the person operating it at the time stuck to state laws.

“We understand he was training with the homeowner for the summer and was staying there,” Meier said.

“When we’re done, we’ll review with the prosecutor’s office to cover all the bases."

It comes after it was revealed a woman told 911 that the goaltender was "getting ready to go into convulsions" after he was fatally hit.

The call was one of three released as part of an investigation into Kivlenieks’ death.

Another female caller said: "Hey, we have someone who was hit by a fireworks. Can you come here immediately? He’s breathing. We have a nurse here. He’s breathing, but he’s not doing very good."


Officials confirmed the NHL star suffered a fatal chest trauma. His death is considered accidental, police say.

The goalie signed with the team as a free agent in May 2017 and made his NHL debut at Madison Square Garden just last year.

He also represented his home country of Lativa at several international tournaments, including the Ice Hockey World Championships this spring.

Fireworks-related death and injuries are on a rise, according to a report released in June by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

It found 15,600 people were treated in hospital emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in 2020 compared to about 10,000 in 2019.

In its 2020 Fireworks Annual Report, the agency said its staff received reports of 18 non-occupational deaths last year in the United States. Of that number, 12 involved the misuse of fireworks.

Consumer Product Safety Commission staff also has reports of 136 fireworks-related deaths between 2005-2020.

In Michigan, consumer fireworks must meet CPSC standards. Licensed facilities only can sell fireworks to people 18 and older.

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