What a touching tribute.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins told Latvian media on Thursday that from now on, he'll wear No. 80 with Latvia's national team in honor of fallen teammate Matīss Kivlenieks.
Kivlenieks was tragically killed on July 4, 2021 due to a firework malfunction in Michigan. According to Merzlikins, Kivlenieks protected Merzlikins' wife and their unborn child from an errant firework shell that ultimately killed Kivlenieks.
As Sporta Centrs reports, Merzlikins is currently training in Latvia and will join the team when they head to Finland for the start of the World Hockey Championship next week. Merzlikins typically wears No. 30 with the national team, but will use the 80 worn by Kivlenieks when he suited up with Latvia and with Columbus, the team Merzlikins also plays for.
Kivlenieks made his World Championship debut with Latvia last year and was in net when the team pulled off its historic first win against Canada on home ice.
Given the bond these two goaltenders had, and the connection they had throughout their careers, this is a nice tribute by the Blue Jackets goaltender.