Matiss Kivlenieks Jackets Will Honor Late Goalie ... On Opening Night

Matiss Kivleneiks will be honored when the Columbus Blue Jackets take the ice on opening night ... with the late goalie's family set to attend the tribute.

The 24-year-old tragically died after suffering serious damage to his lungs and heart during a fireworks mishap at a Jackets coaches 4th of July party.

Matiss -- who signed with the Blue Jackets in 2019 -- was deemed a hero by his teammate, Elvis Merzlikins, for his actions during the fatal incident ... saying MK saved his family from the firework.

Kivleneiks' family will make the trip from Latvia to perform the ceremonial puck drop when CBJ takes on the Arizona Coyotes to kick off the season ... including his mother, stepfather, sister and aunt.

The team says a banner featuring MK's #80 will also be unveiled and will hang in the rafters at Nationwide Arena for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

Blue Jackets players will also wear an "80" sticker on their helmets throughout the season.

After his tragic death, the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation established the Matiss Kivleneiks Memorial Fund to support youth hockey initiatives in Columbus and his native Latvia.

RIP

NHL Ref Stretchered Off Ice ... After Scary Collision With Player

Terrifying scene on the NHL ice Tuesday ... a referee needed to be taken away on a stretcher after he was hit in the head in an accidental collision with a player.

The scary moment all went down just before the Kings vs. Coyotes preseason game in L.A. ... when Arizona center Liam O'Brien ran into linesman Ryan Gibbons.

Video of the play showed O'Brien's shoulder went right into Gibbons' jaw ... causing the ref to immediately crumple to the ice in pain.

Gibbons stayed down motionless for several moments ... before trainers and medical personnel were able to get him on a stretcher and off to a nearby hospital.

According to The Athletic, Gibbons suffered a concussion ... but was, thankfully, discharged from the medical facility later in the evening.

It's unclear how long Gibbons -- who's been reffing games in the NHL since 2015 -- will be sidelined with the injury.

As for the game, it went on as scheduled despite the pregame scene ... with the Coyotes winning, 4-1.

NHL's David Krejci Sells Boston Pad For Record $4 Mil ... After Leaving Bruins

David Krejci ain't just parting ways with the Boston Bruins -- he's ditching his Beantown crib too ... selling the stunning place for $4 million this week.

The hockey player -- who was drafted by the Bruins in 2004 -- announced in July that he was leaving the NHL to continue his playing career in the Czech Republic ... so he had no further need for his swanky Boston home.

So, the guy unloaded it this week -- and he made a killing, 'cause TMZ Sports has learned the price tag made it the highest sale for a single-family home in the Charlestown neighborhood EVER.

The 4,500-square-foot pad has a brownstone vibe ... with 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths and a beautiful kitchen with a ton of windows.

It's also got a fireplace in the luxury living room -- and an amazing private roof deck and outdoor space.

There's also two deeded parking spots -- which, if ya know Boston, is a HUGE bonus.

The property -- listed with George Sarkis from Douglas Elliman -- initially had a price tag of $3,999,000, but it sold for $4.04 million!

Not a bad start to a new career for Krejci -- who spent 15 seasons with the Bruins, winning the 2011 Stanley Cup and leading the NHL in points twice in the playoffs (2011, 2013).

Ukrainian Pro Hockey White Player Vilely Taunts Black Opponent With Racist Banana Gesture

Disgusting scene on the ice in the Ukrainian Hockey League over the weekend ... where a white player blatantly and vilely directed a racist gesture at his Black opponent.

The disturbing incident all went down in a game between HC Kremenchuk and HC Donbass ... when Andrei Deniskin got into a mid-match tiff with Jalen Smereck.

You can see in broadcast footage of the game ... after the two were separated, Deniskin began making a banana peeling and eating motion with his hands and mouth toward Smereck.

The move was so obviously racist, Deniskin was ejected from the game ... and he was immediately ripped for the move by viewers and onlookers.

Smereck's team, HC Donbass called the act "outrageous" ... and the UHL has since launched an investigation into it all.

In fact, the general manager of the UHL, Eugene Kolychev, promised to follow the probe "closely" ... and in a statement, he added, "I declare that there is no place for #racism in Ukrainian professional hockey."

For his part, Deniskin reportedly issued an apology in a now-deleted Instagram post ... writing in the caption, "I respect all people regardless of race or nationality."

Smereck, meanwhile, has thanked his followers and fans for their support in wake of the incident on his social media page.

Evander Kane Denies Sexually & Physically Abusing Estranged Wife ... 'False Allegations'

Evander Kane says his estranged wife, Anna Kane, is straight-up lying ... saying in a statement Wednesday he NEVER sexually or physically abused her during their relationship.

Anna, though, says he did in fact do those things ... spelling out the allegations in new court docs, according to the San Jose Mercury News, that were filed in Santa Clara County earlier this week as part of her divorce case against Evander.

In the docs, Anna claims Evander forced her to have oral sex with him in March 2019 -- just after a funeral for their baby daughter.

Anna alleges the San Jose Sharks player then forced her to have intercourse again days later ... writing in the docs that Evander told her when she denied his advances, "you can’t rape your wife.”

"Evander again forced me, against my will," she said in the documents, "to have sexual intercourse with him even though I had not healed."

Anna claims Evander also roughed her up after one of his playoff games against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

In the docs, Anna says after Evander had found out she had been drinking before the game with some of the other players' wives -- he snapped.

She says after the game, which the Sharks had lost, the 30-year-old winger, "began screaming at me and punching me on the upper side of my head above the hairline."

She added, "Evander grabbed my blouse forcefully and pushed me into the wall of the room, slapping me across my face. Evander was screaming at me and threatened to hurt me even worse if I 'disobeyed' him and had any drinks without him."

Evander, though, says it's all B.S. ... denying the claims in a lengthy statement issued by his attorneys.

"To be clear," Evander's attorneys said, "Evander denies ever abusing Ms. Kane or their daughter Kensington, whom he cherishes."

"He recognizes that they have many years ahead of them as co-parents, during which they will have to work together, which makes it that much more frustrating that she has chosen this path."

The attorneys added they're confident Anna's "lack of credibility" will be exposed at future court hearings.

Of course, this isn't the first time Anna has hurled accusations at Evander ... earlier this summer, she claimed the hockey player would bet on his own NHL games from to time.

Evander has vehemently denied those allegations, saying, "I love the game of Hockey and would never do any of what was alleged."

The NHL has launched an investigation into the claims.

Meanwhile, Evander, in his own court filings, has accused Anna of getting violent with him on several occasions in the past, including an incident where he claims she punched him in the face multiple times.

The next hearing in the couple's divorce case is slated for next week.

Jimmy Hayes Fans Pay Tribute At Ex-NHLer's Funeral ... With Hockey Stick Salute

TRIBUTE TO A LEGEND
@subbanator / Instagram

Dozens of Jimmy Hayes' fans paid their respects to the ex-NHL player at his funeral on Monday ... emotionally saluting the former hockey player with their sticks at the procession.

New Jersey Devils star P.K. Subban was in attendance at St. Ann's Church in Massachusetts for the ceremonies ... and captured the amazing tribute.

You can see in Subban's footage, people lined up on both sides of the street -- with Dorchester Youth Hockey players wearing their jerseys and holding their sticks to pay homage to the former pro.

Subban also shared some photos of kids holding custom-made Hayes jerseys at the salute.

As we previously reported, Hayes tragically died in Milton, Mass. last week at just 31 years old. A cause of death has not yet been publicly revealed.

Jimmy's wife, Kristen, and his brother, Philadelphia Flyers star Kevin Hayes, gave emotional speeches at the funeral Monday ... with Kristen saying, "You were simply the best. There's no other way to put it."

"The boys and I were your whole world," she added. "Every morning you would wake me up with, 'Hi, big momma' or, 'Big momma looking hot.' You said you felt bad that the boys will have the hot mom in the pickup line at school."

Kristen continued, "I will try my best to fill your shoes, but I know it's nearly impossible."

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Jimmy played winger for 7 seasons ... logging ice time with the Blackhawks, Panthers, Bruins and Devils. He retired in 2019.

#RIP

Evander Kane Claims His Wife Assaulted Him ... Gets Restraining Order

Evander Kane is accusing his estranged wife of being a husband beater ... claiming the woman has punched him in the face multiple times in past -- and now, the NHL star has obtained a domestic violence temporary restraining order over it all.

It's all spelled out in court documents, obtained by TMZ Sports, which show Kane was granted a TRO earlier this month after he alleged Anna Kane had been violent with him in the past.

Evander says in the docs that the physical altercations first began in 2019 -- about a year after they were married -- saying Anna got so upset with him during an argument that she hit him "7-8 times in the face with her fist."

In Oct. 2020, Evander says Anna again struck him in the face after they had an argument while Anna's mother was visiting.

Less than a year later, in April 2021, Evander says his wife exploded on him again ... after she had gone through his phone.

In the docs, the 30-year-old San Jose Sharks player says Anna "started uncontrollably throwing things at me" ... before she punched and slapped him repeatedly in the head and face.

Evander says in July, there was yet another incident of violence ... claiming when he was trying to get away from Anna after an argument in San Jose, she pushed him and also violently tugged on a bag he had thrown over his shoulder.

During that same incident, Evander also says Anna dangerously swung around their baby daughter.

Evander was ultimately granted a temporary restraining order against Anna ... and is now seeking a permanent one against her. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for next month.

As we previously reported, Anna filed for divorce from Evander back on July 16 ... and accused him of being a deadbeat dad who had bet on his own NHL games.

For his part, Kane has vehemently denied ever gambling on his hockey games ... and says he's been a great father who's making every effort possible to see his daughter despite the messy divorce.

Jimmy Hayes' Wife Devastated Over Ex-NHLer's Death ... 'This Isn't Fair'

Jimmy Hayes' wife says she's devastated over the death of the former NHL player ... writing on her social media page on Tuesday, "I don't know how I'm going to do life without you."

Kristen Hayes posted the heartfelt message on her Instagram over a picture of Jimmy, adding, "My angel, I love you so much. I miss you."

"You should be here," she continued. "This isn’t fair."

Jimmy -- who played 7 years in the NHL -- was reportedly pronounced dead at his home in Milton, MA on Monday. No additional details have been released surrounding the death.

Boston College and the Chicago Blackhawks both released statements mourning his passing Monday, with the 'Hawks writing, "We are heartbroken."

Hayes -- whose younger brother, Kevin Hayes, currently plays for the Philadelphia Flyers -- is survived by his wife, Kristen, and their two sons, Beau and Mac.

He was just 31 years old.

RIP

Jimmy Hayes Ex-NHL Player Dead At 31

10:46 AM PT -- The Chicago Blackhawks released a statement Monday saying they're "heartbroken to learn of the passing of Jimmy Hayes."

"His warm personality made an immediate impact in the locker room and with our fans," the team added.

"We're proud of the memories he made in Chicago, including making his NHL debut in 2011. Sending our thoughts and prayers to his family."

Former NHL winger Jimmy Hayes -- who played for several teams including the Chicago Blackhawks -- has died ... his alma mater, Boston College, announced on Monday.

He was just 31 years old.

No other details surrounding the former NHL player's death were given.

"Boston College Hockey is heartbroken over the passing of Jimmy Hayes," B.C. officials said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Hayes family."

Hayes -- who was picked in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft -- made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks in 2011.

He went on to play 7 seasons in the league ... logging ice time for the 'Hawks, Panthers, Bruins and Devils. He finished his career with 54 total goals scored.

Hayes' younger brother, Kevin Hayes, is currently a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.

#RIP

Originally Published -- 9:54 AM PT

Henrik Lundqvist NHL Legend Retires ... After Lengthy Battle With Heart Issues

The King's reign between the NHL pipes has officially come to an end ... Henrik Lundqvist announced Friday he's retiring from hockey due to his battle with heart issues.

The legendary goalkeeper said, according to the New York Post, that he could have tried to keep pushing to get to 100 percent and play another season eventually ... but ultimately decided hanging up the skates would be the better option.

"It came down to how badly I wanted to push it, how much of a gamble did I want to take?" Lundqvist said.

"And I came to the conclusion that there are too many unknowns and too much risk for not enough reward for me to keep playing."

Lundvqist was a STAR for the New York Rangers from 2005 to 2020 ... but he began suffering from heart problems shortly after NY bought him out after the 2019-20 season.

Lundvqist -- who had signed with the Washington Capitals before last season -- eventually missed the 2020-21 season due to the issues and finally had to have open-heart surgery in January.

2/23/21
BACK BETWEEN THE PIPES

Henrik has been steadily improving since the operation -- he even made a return to the ice just weeks after the procedure -- but he said Friday a complete comeback just isn't in the cards.

"It's all still fresh," Henrik said. "I decided only a few days ago. But I am at peace. I look back at my career, and all I have is gratitude and pride. I am just so grateful."

Henrik is considered one of the best goalies of all time... piling up 459 wins and a career goals against average of 2.43.

NHL Legend Tony Esposito Dead At 78 ... After Battle With Pancreatic Cancer

Hockey Hall of Famer Tony Esposito -- one of greatest goalies EVER -- died Tuesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer ... NHL officials confirmed.

He was 78 years old.

"The hockey world will miss him greatly," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "The NHL family extends its deepest sympathies to his wife, Marilyn, sons Mark [Kim] and Jason, and grandchildren Lauren and Kamryn."

Esposito joined the Chicago Blackhawks in 1969 and went on to star for the team for 15 years -- winning the Vezina Trophy three times.

Esposito -- whose brother, Phil Esposito, was also a mega-NHL star -- was named an All-Star five times ... and finished his career with a 418-302 record and a 2.93 goals against average.

He was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.

"It is a sad day for the Blackhawks and all of hockey," said the Blackhawks, who have already retired Esposito's #35 jersey. "But, with his wonderful family, let us celebrate a life well lived."

"Tony Esposito's banner will be part of the United Center forever, as will his legacy as a superstar, on and off the ice."

RIP

'Shark Tank' Star Robert Herjavec Rescues Ex-Hockey Pro's Fam ... During Lake Boat Trip

ROBERT TO THE RESCUE

Usually, the last thing you wanna see while stranded in the water is a shark ... but this time, it was a GOOD thing -- 'cause "Shark Tank" star Robert Herjavec saved the day by rescuing an ex-hockey player and his family during a boat trip on the lake!!

Here's the deal ... 41-year-old Tom Lawson -- who played 10 years in several different leagues -- was out with his wife and kids on Lake Joseph in Ontario, Canada ... when their boat ran out of gas.

To make matters worse, the sun was going down and Lawson's boat was not meant to be out at night ... so the whole family started flailing their arms and calling for help.

As it turns out, the businessman was out on his jet ski at the same time ... and noticed the family trying to get his attention.

"My first thought was they must love 'Shark Tank,' but then I realized they were out of gas and stranded," Herjavec told People.

The Shark says he immediately sprang into action and found a rope to tie to Lawson's boat ... and towed them back to land with his jet ski!!!

"Did my good deed for the day," Herjavec said on Instagram.

The group was extremely thankful for the rescue ... and even posed for a pic with their hero.

Awesome stuff ... but we're sure Tom will be sure to fill that tank up next time!!

NHL'S EVANDER KANE Reunion with Mara Teigen Not Cheating ... Wife Had Filed for Divorce

NHL star Evander Kane didn't cheat on his now estranged wife with his model ex-girlfriend -- instead, folks close to him claim he only reunited with Mara Teigen after his marriage blew up.

Sources close to Evander and Mara tell TMZ ... Anna Kane has her timeline mixed up, because they insist Evander and Mara weren't seeing each other during his marriage. We're told they definitely rekindled their flame, but only in the wake of Anna's July 16 divorce filing.

We're told the San Jose Sharks star and Mara reconnected on social media after not speaking for more than 6 years ... and their now infamous trip to Europe was completely spontaneous.

Our sources say Mara's denying being a homewrecker, and they also claim Evander did NOT abandon his family, despite what his estranged wife has alleged.

We're told Evander's moved out of the home he shared with Anna, and is telling people around him he's been blocked from seeing his daughter -- presumably by Anna.

As we reported ... Evander also claims his estranged wife was straight-up lying when she accused him of betting on the sport -- which could get him in big trouble with the league -- and he's trying to keep their divorce civil.

Anna also claimed Evander's a deadbeat dad who refuses to provide for their daughter, but our sources say EK definitely wants to see her and loves her very much.

We're told Mara, who first dated Evander in 2014 -- before he married Anna -- is very supportive of him being a father and she's not trying to keep him from his daughter.

Sharks' Evander Kane I Never Gambled On NHL Games ... My Ex Is Lying!!!

Evander Kane is adamant he NEVER gambled on hockey or threw games ... insisting his estranged wife is straight-up lying after she accused the NHL star of betting on the sport.

"I have NEVER gambled/bet on Hockey, NEVER gambled/bet on a Sharks game, NEVER gambled/bet on any of my games and NEVER thrown a hockey game,'' Kane wrote on Twitter.

Evander later continued ... "I love the game of Hockey and would never do any of what was alleged. I look forward to cooperating fully with the league's investigation, having my name cleared and looking forward to this upcoming season."

The messages were in response to Anna Kane's explosive allegations on Saturday, where she accused her soon-to-be-ex-husband of gambling on hockey games -- a cardinal sin in sports.

She wrote ... "How does the NHL let a compulsive gambling addict still play when he's obviously throwing games to win money? Hmm maybe someone needs to address this."

Soon after Anna posted her message, the NHL announced they were investigating the claim.

"The League was made aware this evening of a post on social media alleging that San Jose Sharks Player Evander Kane bet on NHL games. The integrity of our game is paramount and the League takes these allegations very seriously."

"We intend to conduct a full investigation and will have no further comment at this time."

Evander's team, the Sharks, also commented on the allegation, saying they've been in contact with the league and plan to aid the investigation.

For what it's worth, Kane -- who's midway through a 7-year deal worth $49 million -- allegedly had issues with a casino in the past.

Back in 2019, The Cosmopolitan in Vegas sued the hockey star for $500k -- claiming he had unpaid debts.

That lawsuit was later dropped.

Luke Prokop NHL Prospect Announces He's Gay ... 'No Longer Scared To Hide Who I Am'

Luke Prokop -- a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft -- just announced he's gay ... saying in a statement Monday, "I am no longer scared to hide who I am."

The 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect continued, "It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life, but I could not be happier with my decision to come out."

Prokop -- a 6-foot-4, 217-pound defenseman who currently plays in the Western Hockey League for the Calgary Hitmen -- said he's hopeful coming forward with his truth will help him ultimately reach his goal of making an NHL roster.

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"From a young age I have dreamed of being an NHL player," Prokop said, "and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams."

If Prokop does make it to the NHL show ... he would become the first-ever openly gay player in the league.

"I hope that in sharing who I am I can help other people see that gay people are welcome in the hockey community, as we work to make sure that hockey truly is for everyone," Prokop said.

Both the Predators and the NHL have already released statements in support of Prokop ... with commissioner Gary Bettman saying Monday, "We pledged to do everything possible to ensure that Luke's experience is a welcoming and affirmative one and continue to work to ensure that any current or future NHL player contemplating following in his trailblazing footsteps knows our League is ready to provide full support."

The hockey player's announcement comes less than a month after Las Vegas Raiders star Carl Nassib became the first-ever openly gay player in the NFL.

A MESSAGE FROM THE NFL
NFL

Since his announcement, Nassib, too, has been embraced fully by his league ... with the NFL releasing a powerful video proclaiming, "Football is gay."

Alex Killorn & Nikita Kucherov Jet Ski Ride With Stanley Cup ... At Epic Lightning Celebration!!!

JET SKI CRUISIN'
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lord Stanley looked more like Lord Jet Ski on Monday ... 'cause Tampa Bay Lightning stars Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov just took the Stanley Cup for an epic ride on the water!!!

It all went down at the NHL team's championship parade in Tampa, Fla. ... and video from the scene is absolutely AWESOME!!!

The two put the trophy up front near the steering column ... and then took the title bling out for a joy ride.

At one point, the guys maneuvered it all the way over to a packed crowd ... and stood up on the ride to lift it up so everyone could cheer it on!!!

Of course, the parade has featured a ton of other memorable moments ... with guys chuggin' booze, tossin' bottles from boat to boat, and even Andrei Vasilevskiy putting the Conn Smythe Trophy on his head!!

And, if you were wondering ... the Cup has NOT been thrown from one ride to another just yet -- seems the Lightning aren't willing to be as brave as Tom Brady was in February.

2/10/21
DROPPIN' DIMES
@bitiboy11

But, probably for the best ... the thing is, after all, WAY heavier than the Lombardi Trophy!!

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