COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With the Blue Jackets reeling from three consecutive losses before two games in Finland, goaltender Elvis Merzlikins is dealing with criticism of his play that has reached a personal level.
Merzlikins’ wife, Aleksandra, posted on her Instagram account Saturday that fans shouted verbal abuse toward her and their family. She wrote she heard someone shout, “You, your kid and your husband should die,” and, “You and your husband are trash.”
Elvis Merzlikins has struggled to start the season, with extra playing time unavoidable as fellow goalie Joonas Korpisalo has been recovering from an injury. Merzlikins has started six games, allowing nearly 5 goals per game, and he has been frank about his on-ice struggles.
“I sucked. I know that,” he said Friday after a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at Nationwide Arena. “But right now here is all about us. We need to get out of this together.”
Merzlikins has yet to publicly discuss Aleksandra’s Instagram post, but the Blue Jackets said they are aware.
“We are aware of this and very disturbed by it as no one should be subjected to verbal abuse such as this,” a team representative wrote NBC4. “The Columbus Blue Jackets strongly condemn it and will be looking into the matter.”
In her post, Aleksandra said she will stop taking their 1-year-old son to games.
“I’m scared of him being there,” she wrote. “Enough with the trashing, enough with the pointing fingers, enough with the hoping something bad happens or wishing someone’s death, quick reminder we had a tragedy happen last year so think about it twice before you say something.”
On July 4, 2021, Merzlikins’ best friend, Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks explosion. Elvis and Aleksandra were with Kivlenieks in Michigan for a wedding-related gathering and saw the blast strike Kivlenieks.
“He wasn’t my friend. He was my little brother,” Merzlikins said at Kivlenieks’ memorial service. “He saved my son, he saved my wife and he saved me. … He died as a hero.”
Aleksandra also mentioned in her post that she was seeing fans writing that her husband has mental issues. Merzlikins discussed in July how he dealt with grief while playing games and how the firing of the cannon at Nationwide Arena was a trigger for him.
“The opening night … when I heard the cannon I felt it first. We all know what happened to [Matiss] and when I heard the cannon my heart, I felt my heart like I never heard before in my life,” Merzlikins said. “The next three-four games when I heard the cannon, even when we scored the goals, I was closing the eyes and getting myself ready for nothing.”
The Blue Jackets arrived in Finland on Monday for its NHL Global Series games against the Colorado Avalanche in Tampere on Friday and Saturday. Their next home game isn’t until Thursday, Nov. 10, against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Korpisalo is back with the team, so he and Merzlikins will likely begin to rotate starts. Korpisalo has been recovering from hip surgery since March and posted a 95% save rate for the Cleveland Monsters on Saturday in a rehab appearance.
The Blue Jackets have won just three of their first 10 games and currently have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference standings. But those struggles shouldn’t become personal, as Aleksander wrote: “What happens on ice should stay on ice and not be part of our personal life outside.”