The Columbus Blue Jackets have released their preseason schedule. It has eight games and ends with matches against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Four of the eight games will be at Nationwide Arena in the city. Before the official start of the 2020-2021 season, the Blue Jackets will play home and away games against the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, and the Penguins. All the preseason matches will be played from September 27th to October 9th at 7pm. The offseason was eventful. They have their new and eighth head coach, Brad Larsen, and lost their player Matiss Kivlenieks on the 4th of July when he was hit by a malfunctioning firework.
The goalie was only 24 years old. The team is recovering, but has their new coach to lead them, who was the assistant coach for the past seven seasons. He signed a three year contract that will be up for renewal or negotiation during the 2023 to 2024 season. Kivlenieks was at the team’s goaltender coach’s house, Manny Legace, in Michigan when he was hit by wrong-way fireworks. The Legace family, who was close to the deceased player, are distraight along with the rest of the team.
The Kivlenieks and Matiss’s teammate Elvis Merzliekens are all from Latvia, so Merzliekens was able to help the family with the language barrier while planning the funeral in their home country. It was first thought that Kivlenieks fell and hit his head while trying to get away from fireworks, but the medical examiner concluded that he was actually hit with one and suffered major trauma.
Player Cam Atkinson described Kivi, as he was affectionately called, as a very nice person with a smile always on his face. Atkinson said it was a privilege to play beside him. Kivlenieks started in the National Hockey League on January 19th, 2020 at Madison Square Garden. He will be missed by everyone whose life he touched.
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