Merzlikins' new mask pays tribute to Kivlenieks
Elvis Merzlikins is taking another step to honor his late teammate, housemate, countryman, and fellow goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets netminder's new mask prominently displays Kivlenieks' No. 80 in front of a pair of wings on the chin. It also features an inscription reading, "You saved the last puck, little brother."
Kivlenieks died in a fireworks accident on July 4 at the age of 24. Renowned mask artist David Gunnarsson designed the headgear.
Merzlikins gave his newborn son Knox the middle name Matiss in Kivlenieks' memory. Earlier this week, Merzlikins said he wanted to "win a f------ Vezina (Trophy)" for his late friend. At the memorial service, Merzlikins revealed Kivlenieks "died a hero" and saved lives, including that of Merzlikins' pregnant wife.
Both goalies were born and raised in Latvia, and Kivlenieks lived in Merzlikins' guest room.
Former Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois - who's now with the Winnipeg Jets - switched to No. 80 as a tribute to Kivlenieks in August.