The alleged incident occurred when the team was exiting the tunnel before puck drop.
"There are some stupid people in this world,” he said. It was really bad what happened in the tunnel when I was walking out. There was a fan from Dallas who [provoked] me about Matiss."
#CBJ G Elvis Merzlikins said a fan wearing a Dallas Stars sweater taunted him regarding the off-season death of friend and former teammate Matiss Kivlenieks as he and Blue Jackets teammates came out of the tunnel for the start of the game.#TexasHockey
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) October 26, 2021
During a July 4 party this summer, 24-year-old Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks lost his life after being struck in the chest by a malfunctioning firework. According to Merzlikins, his fellow netminder saved his and his family’s lives by standing in between them and the oncoming projectile. Columbus paid tribute to the beloved goaltender earlier this season.
Despite the taunting over the traumatic event, Merzlikins saved 31 of 32 shots against the Stars; and his shutout was only spoiled by a Tyler Seguin goal in the final minutes of the game.
“I strongly believe … I was expecting a shutout because I believe in karma,” Merzlikins said. "After the first period, the three posts that I got, I really [firmly] believed in karma. I saw that [Matiss] was really there.”
When asked whether or not he responded to the fan in the tunnel, Merzlikins said “stupid people don't come into my head. I didn't get upset. I just realize how stupid people are. This is all. I don't care what he said."
The two Latvian goaltenders were not just connected on the ice as positional teammates and countrymen, but according to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, Merzlikins viewed Kivlenieks as a little brother and even invited him to live with his family. Merzlikins was also planning on asking his late teammate to be his daughter’s godfather.
Although he is certainly going through the grieving process, Merzlikins has started the season red hot. Through four starts, he has a .952 save percentage and a 1.47 goals against average, earning a 4-0-0 record so far.
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