TORONTO – Leafs fans, take note: If you attend a playoff game, and happen to sit in front of the captain’s TV star girlfriend and next to the starting goalie’s adorably animated mother and wife — there’s a high probability you’re going viral.
If you missed it, James Reimer’s family was a focal point during CBC’s broadcast of Wednesday night’s Leafs-Bruins thriller. Marlene Reimer nervously covered her eyes while April Reimer, James’s wife, winced through every Bruins scoring chance. It was endearing TV—a glimpse at the wrenching, emotional roller coaster the family of a NHL goalie must endure.
The camera panned to them again after Dion Phaneuf took himself out of the play with an aggressive pinch, leading to an odd-man rush and the Bruin’s overtime winner. In a clip that quickly made its way through cyber-space, April Reimer looked back and appeared to roll her eyes at Elisha Cuthbert — Phanuef’s fiancé — sitting in the row behind.
The look was interpreted as a “death stare,” among other things. But April Reimer quickly set the record straight on Twitter:
Cuthbert also shared her displeasure with the insinuation of a riff between her and Reimer. The star of Happy Endings, which airs Fridays on City, Tweeted:
The logical question followed: Who, then, was the jerk beside them?
Many inferred that, indeed, it might have been the guy sitting beside them.
That man was Steve Benedetti – otherwise known as the guy in the Minnesota North Stars hat. The London, Ont., man attended Game 4 with his friend, Kevin Virtue -- brother to Canadian figure skating star Tessa Virtue (She could not be reached for comment).
As it turns out, Benedetti is a friend of mine. Appalled by his suspected behaviour, I quickly messaged April Reimer to find out what he said.
“No no no it wasn't him at all it was the guy behind us! The guys beside me were good! They always are :)” she replied.
Benedetti was acquitted, it seemed. But still, his phone was blasted with texts and calls from curious friends as his image appeared on networks and websites across North America.
To officially clear his name, Benedetti agreed to give Sportsnet this exclusive interview:
Thanks for doing this Steve. Your North Stars hat got a lot of attention when people thought you were a jerk who made rude comments near the loved ones of Leaf players last night. Talk about that...
“Yeah. My hat got tons of attention.”
Why do you have a North Stars hat?
“Oh, I don’t know. I just have all kinds of hats, so ...”
Are you a North Stars fan?
“I’m not a North Stars fan. No. It’s just a hat. Do you want me to make up a story about the hat?”
No. We just saw that a lot of people were commenting about the hat. Why would you wear a North Stars hat to a Leafs game?
“I get lots of people who love the hat and lots of people who just hate it.”
That’s not an answer. When did you get the hat?
“A couple months ago.”
Are the North Stars making a comeback or something?
“I don’t know. I got it at Pete’s Sports in London. I just saw it and was like: ‘I’ve got to have that.’"
Why didn’t you wear a Leafs hat? That’s what we’re trying to get at here.
“I don’t know. It wasn’t like I planned my outfit.”
Your friend was wearing a Yankees hat.
Were you aware that CBC was showing footage of you sitting next to the Reimers all game?
“I didn’t have a clue. We were watching the game, so I didn’t know. My phone was in my pocket and then I checked it afterwards — and then I got like a billion text messages and my phone was dead.”
Did you hear anyone around you make a rude comment?
“I didn’t have a clue anything happened. After the game I talked to her and said: James played a great game. I mean, he did -- he made forty-some-odd saves. I wouldn’t want to be a goalie’s parent or (loved one) at a game. Because it’s not like people know who she is -- maybe now -- but at most games nobody knows that. People go to games and they’re obviously going to say things. I don’t think that guy knew -- or maybe he did know. I don’t know, people run their mouths I guess."
Did you say anything offensive at all during the game?
“No. Our seats were right beside them, so I wouldn’t say anything.”
I saw your mouth move when the Bruins scored the overtime goal.
“Some people told me I said (expletive). But I don’t think I said anything.”
“But I would never say anything disrespectful to people that I sit next to at a game all the time.” (Benedetti and his friend have season’s tickets.)
The way April wrote her tweet made it sound like she was referring to the guy beside her -- which was clearly you. But if we look at it again, she appears to look past Cuthbert at someone else. But on the Internet it seemed to take some time for people to unravel that kind of logic.
“Well especially because in a lot of the photos I saw, it was just her and me and Elisha Cuthbert. I’m the only other person in the photo -- (laughs) It’s funny. It’s a good photo."
It is. You look good.
What did you do after the game?
“We went out for a couple drinks actually. We walked into Gracie’s and somebody was like: ‘I just saw you on TV. You’re the only guy in this town with a North Stars hat.’ Don’t write that though.”
I have to write that.
“No. No -- We’re getting recognized all over the place. We’re huge right now. Our lives have changed ..."
I’m going to write it. Thanks for doing this.
In other news, the Leafs trail the Bruins three games to one. Game 5 goes Friday night in Boston.