Matiss Kivlenieks' mother speaks on her son's decision to become a goalie and the aftermath

T. Tadi
July 11, 2021  (11:11)

Since the death of Columbus Blue Jackets' goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks at just 24 years old, tributes have poured in from current and former teammates, the NHL and many others. His mother, Astrida Meldere, is speaking out for the first time since her son's death and told The Athletic the show of support has been unbelievable.

"(I'm) extremely touched by the letters and emails, both through the (hockey) federation and directly," Meldere said. "Many people are approaching and (I'm) extremely touched. I was not expecting this warm attitude from so many."
"I'm extremely touched and happy about this, even though this is a tough time."
Maldere said hockey was everything for her son, who decided at the age of three that he would be a goaltender.
"Matiss was a very, very determined person. After four or five months of skating, he decided himself that he wants to be a goalie. That was his decision, at a very early age. He said it: 'I want to be a goalie.'"
"Matiss was hard-working, but he had very huge confidence and a huge level of personality," Meldere said. "He devoted his life to hockey. Hockey was everything for him. Everything."
"He knew at a very early age that he was going to play in the NHL. That was his aim, his goal, and he had no doubts. He said, 'I am going to play in the NHL, mom. One day, I'm going to play in the NHL.' He was so sure about it."
Kivlenkieks did achieve his dream, debuting on January 19th of 2020 in a game against the New York Rangers. He made 31 saves in a 3-1 win for the Blue Jackets. He was just the fifth Latvian-born goaltender to reach the NHL.
"Matiss will be remembered as a very happy and smiling person, and (for) his achievements in a very short hockey career," his mother said. "(He won) trophies in his best season (in the United States Hockey League). He won his very first game in NHL, and obviously his game (for Latvia) in World Championship against the next world champions, a 2-0 win!" (against Team Canada)
Kivlenieks died after being struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar while celebrating the 4th of July in Michigan. He played a total of eight games in the NHL before his untimely passing. According to The Athletic, his game totals were likely to increase in a big way in 2021-22 as he was to be left exposed for the Seattle expansion draft. If he wasn't taken, it's likely Columbus would have traded one of their current starting goaltenders (Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo) and Kivlenieks would have moved into the backup role.
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