Merzlikins pays tribute to late Blue Jackets Kivlenieks teammate on mask
Elvis merzlikins honors the late Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks through his mask for this season.
Both from Latvia, the two were teammates in Columbus and Merzlikins considered Kivlenieks a little brother before he died on July 4 in a fireworks accident. During the Kivlenieks memorial service, Merzlikins explained how the stray firework shell that hit the 24-year-old would have hit him and his pregnant wife if Kivlenieks hadn’t been in front of them. When Aleksandra Merzlinkins gave birth to the baby boy, they named him Knox Matiss Merzlikins.
The party where the incident happened was at the home of Blue Jackets goalie coach Manny Legace and dozens of people gathered to celebrate his daughter Sabrina’s wedding. During the memorial service, Merzlikins also mentioned that Sabrina said Kivlenieks made her last stop, which became the quote on Merzlikins new mask.
Other symbols in homage to Kivlenieks include his number 80 with angel wings on the front of the mask and the Blue Jackets goal cannon similar to the one Kivlenieks had on his mask on one side. Mask artist David Gunnarsson of DaveArt produced the artwork.
“I want him to be near me,” Merzlikins told the Blue Jackets website. “I still want him with me. I know he will always be with me and he’s going to look up there and help me. That’s the minimum he can do for me because he’s gone. here with us. The passion and love he had for this game is what he’s going to do, and I believe him. “