NHL goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks was celebrating the Fourth of July at the Michigan home of his goaltending coach when he was fatally struck by fireworks. The accident happened Sunday at the house of Manny Legace, who works for the Columbus Blue Jackets after an 11-year NHL playing career, ESPN reports. Kivlenieks had gone there with a teammate, Elvis Merzlikins, for the holiday and the wedding of Legace's daughter. Police said that Kivlenieks was in a hot tub when the mortar-style firework went off, and that he was struck while trying to get out of the way. The blow damaged his heart and lungs. His death was ruled accidental, per CNN.
A moment of silence in honor of Kivlenieks was observed Monday night before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between Tampa Bay and Montreal. Lightning coach Jon Cooper spoke of the loss after the game, calling it "an awful tragedy," and offering condolences to Kivlenieks' family. At Nationwide Arena in Columbus, fans left homemade signs, flowers, balloons, and sticks at a makeshift memorial. Nick Foligno, a former Blue Jackets captain, said Kivlenieks was always in a good mood—"just enjoying his life as a 24-year-old living out his dream, and you could tell he didn't take one day for granted, which makes this tragedy even more hard to bear." (Read more Columbus Blue Jackets stories.)