It's been a difficult week.
In the days following the sudden and tragic passing of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, the Blue Jackets organization, players, and fans have grieved together.
Kivlenieks played just eight games with the Blue Jackets, but got a big win in the first start of his career: a win over the New York Rangers at the world-famous Madison Square Garden. His final two starts, just two months ago, came in front of the home crowd at Nationwide Arena.
They were his first two – and harrowingly his last two – starts at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets saw Kivlenieks as a bigger part of the future than most of us would have imagined, and rightfully so. The team is loaded with young talent between the pipes, but team president John Davidson made clear that Kivi was a part of the future in Columbus.
“We projected him as a full time NHL goalie, with a lot of potential,” said Davidson. “We felt that he was going to be a big part of our future."
The toughest part of this loss has nothing to do with hockey, though.
It’s that we didn’t get a chance to know Matiss Kivlenieks, the man.
And we were so close to getting that opportunity.
Teammates, both past and present, have commented on the joy that Kivi brought to the rink every day. We feel for them, his friends, his family, of course. They knew him, and by quite literally all accounts, they adored him. The 5th Line was just getting to know him though, and with Kivlenieks expected to be an NHL regular as soon as this fall, Blue Jacket fans were looking forward to having another man to cheer for who just happened to wear a Columbus sweater.
Then there's Elvis. The friendship between him and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, both natives of Latvia, was always known, but it’s the depth of their friendship that has come to the forefront in recent days that makes it all the more difficult. Merzlikins, a fan favorite, has been heartfelt in his limited public commentary through social media. The love that he and his family had for Kivi was true and thorough, and the void Kivlenieks’ passing leaves behind is nothing short of heartbreaking.
Kivlenieks was just 24 years old. His life was just getting started.
Instead, it ended in a split second.
It’s a grim reminder that mortality dodges no person, and that sometimes, it can be the most random, freak, one-in-a-billion occurrence that changes everything.
And that sometimes, that one-in-a-billion can happen to an absolutely outstanding person.
Rest in peace, Kivi.