News of Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks’ tragic passing broke the airwaves on Monday and left the NHL community shocked and deeply saddened. Kivlenieks, at just 24, was killed on Sunday night after a fireworks accident. The tragedy ripped a hole through Columbus’ hockey community. However, through the grief and shock, Columbus did what any strong community does; they came together in a time of pain. They created memorials, gatherings, and many other forms of remembrance, all in the young goaltender’s memory. The city reached out to support his family, friends, and team when they needed it the most.
This piece will look into the show of support the community has given to Kivlenieks’ loved ones and how the community has come together in this time of tragedy to honor a life gone too soon.
Blue Jackets Fans Pack R-Bar in Show of Remembrance
Shortly after the news of Kivlenieks’ death broke, Blue Jackets fan Sarah Kent tweeted for Columbus fans to meet at a local Blue Jackets-themed establishment called R-Bar. R-Bar was supposed to be closed in observance of Independence Day, but given the circumstances, the bar’s owner quickly called in employees and opened, allowing fans a place to gather and grieve. Fans made their way to R-Bar and observed an 80 second moment of silence (80 was Kivlenieks’ jersey number) and made a toast to him with chants of “CBJ.”
R-Bar is an important fixture in the Columbus hockey community, and that was on full display on Monday. What was normally a place that is a centerpiece for some of the city’s happiest moments became a spot for the fanbase to mourn the loss of one of their own by coming together to celebrate his life.
Kivlenieks’ Memorial Begins to Grow Outside of Nationwide Arena
Around the time of the R-Bar gathering, many fans had also made their way to the doors of Nationwide Arena to remember and honor Kivlenieks also.
They left ballons, hockey sticks, flowers, pucks, and signs with kind words. Some of those signs had messages such as, “We love you Kivi,” and “we will miss you Kivi.” The memorial started small but has quickly grown and is now more than double the size than it was Monday night. The fanbase has made sure to have a place to honor their fallen goaltender.
Twitter Profile Pictures Become 80’s
In a simple form of honor, many people in the Blue Jackets organization and fans began to change their profile pictures on Twitter to a white number 80 with a black background.
It was a simple gesture, but with that many community members with the same photo, it showed that the Columbus hockey community is together, will lean on each other to get through this tragedy, and they all will remember Kivelenieks.
Sticks Out For Kivi Trends
One of the biggest honors and remembrance to Kivlenieks started on Twitter shortly after the news of his passing. The term #SticksOutForKivi began to trend and had far-reaching effects.
Sticks were placed out everywhere. They were left in front of Nationwide Arena by the Blue Jackets organization, outside of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse where the Cleveland Monsters play, and even left out as far as Wales in the United Kingdom. Many members of the media in Columbus also left sticks out in Matiss’ memory.
The sticks represent the city’s grief and sadness at his passing, and there is no doubt after a few minutes of driving, you will see a porch and front door with hockey sticks out. This is Columbus’ way of telling Kivlenieks’ family and loved ones that he will never be forgotten.
Columbus Is Strong Together
When asked about Columbus’ hockey community, fan Sarah Kent said, “the Blue Jackets community is family. We are there for each other any time of the day. When one grieves, we all grieve, and we are there for each other to lean on.”
That community has proven that they are a family and grieve together. There is no doubt that Columbus will make it through this difficult time together, but they won’t forget the life that was left behind and that touched so many across the NHL and here in the city. Kivlenieks’ death is a tragedy. Everyone at the Hockey Writer extends their deepest condolences to the his family, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and other loved ones. He will never be forgotten.
Cody Chalfan is currently a journalism major at the Ohio State University who grew up in Columbus and loves hockey, especially the Blue Jackets. He is disabled, therefore he is a major advocate for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone movement. A piece he wrote focusing on the Blue Jackets’ work on expanding the sport into the local special needs community can be found here. Cody can be contacted via Twitter (@cachalfan) direct message for comments, constructive criticism, or story ideas.