To say Matiss Kivlenieks death had a profound impact on the hockey world would be an understatement. The impact to those he played with was even greater.
Winnipeg Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois is making a sentimental jersey number change and will wear No. 80 in honor of his late former teammate.
Pierre-Luc Dubois will wear 80 to honor Matiss Kivlenieks
The two played together with the Columbus Blue Jackets for parts of two seasons before Dubois was traded to the Jets in January.
Kivlenieks, a backup goalie, was killed July 4 in a fireworks accident at a house party in Michigan. He was 24.
Soon after Kivlenieks’ death, Dubois, 23, posted a photo of his late teammate on Instagram, writing, “RIP ‘Kivvi’. You were a great person and an unbelievable friend to have.'”
After his trade to Winnipeg, Dubois changed from No. 18 to No. 13.
Kivlenieks died a hero
At Kivlenieks memorial service, Elvis Merzlikins said that his fellow goaltender was like a younger brother to him and that he “died a hero” in a July 4 fireworks mishap.
Merzlikins said his teammate’s actions saved him and his pregnant wife from the errant fireworks blast.
“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,” Merzlikins said, per ESPN. “He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me.”
Merzlikins, whose wife, Aleksandra, is in her third trimester, said their son’s middle name will be Matiss. Kivlenieks had been living in Ohio with Merzlikins, a fellow Latvian.
Kivlenieks, 24, was attending a Fourth of July party at goaltending coach Manny Legace’s house in Novi, Mich., when he was struck by a firework. He died from chest trauma with major damage to his heart and lungs.
Kivlenieks played in eight games (six starts) for the Blue Jackets in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. He was 2-2-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage.
–Field Level Media contributed the majority of this article.