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This article was published 23/1/2018 (754 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — They didn’t run. They didn’t hide. They handled it with about as much humility and humour as you could ask for.
Justin Braun and Tomas Hertl knew the questions were coming Tuesday as the Winnipeg Jets came to town. After all, it was just a couple weeks ago the pair of San Jose Sharks players found themselves in the centre of an unexpected firestorm when videotaped comments they made last summer were released by the team’s official broadcaster.
When asked to name the worst NHL city to visit, both men named Winnipeg. Hertl called it "cold and dark," while Braun said the Fairmont Hotel where the team stays when in town was "questionable" and wondered whether the city has Wi-Fi yet.
That had plenty of locals up in arms, including Mayor Brian Bowman and Premier Brian Pallister, who both weighed in with responses.
"Yeah, I more than likely thought I’d never see that again. I was joking around, and it blew up huge," Braun said Tuesday. The 30 year old — who was born in St. Paul, Minn., but grew up in nearby White Bear Lake — said the questions were posed by NBC Sports as it was recording numerous filler segments for future intermissions.
"They were firing questions at you. You throw one out and kind of move on. That was not the intention I was looking for for that. It blew up, and I’m not too proud of that," Braun said. "Thankfully, I don’t have social media and people couldn’t find me and yell at me. It wasn’t the intention I was looking for, bringing negative press to the Sharks and myself. I kind of regret that a little bit."
Hertl said he was on vacation during his team’s bye week when he saw on Twitter that something happened in Winnipeg.
"I really had no idea. For a full day, I was saying, ‘What is actually happening?’ I had no interviews in Winnipeg, and then I see it was something we did in the summer," Hertl said. "There were 50 different questions and somebody asked me this question and it was more like a joke — you know, it’s dark and cold."
Hertl said he’d only played in Winnipeg three previous times, always arriving at night and during the winter.
"I don’t know what’s supposed to be said, so it was more like a joke. They wanted me to answer something. It was bad timing, everything, you know," the 24-year-old from the Czech Republic said.
"I say ‘shit happens,’ but it was not anything good. Hopefully we can move on."
The Sharks organization apologized after the incident, with general manager Doug Wilson calling Jets co-owner Mark Chipman and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to express his disappointment.
San Jose defenceman Dylan DeMelo, who was born in Ontario, said he was impressed by comments from Jets head coach Paul Maurice following the initial incident. Maurice spoke about the privilege of playing in the best hockey league in the world and the great lifestyle they live as a result.
"It’s the NHL, so it’s pretty hard to complain about whatever city you’re in," DeMelo said.
"It’s a privilege to be in this league. All cities are great and everybody offers something different."
However, he predicted some Jets fans known for their creative chants might not forgive and forget so easily.
"Next time we play in Winnipeg, I guess we’ll find out," he said with a laugh. "I didn’t say it, so I’m not nervous about it. You just got to have fun with it, I guess."
Jets captain Blake Wheeler had a tongue-in-cheek response Tuesday when asked by San Jose media what it’s like to play in the Bay Area.
"I think it’s a great fan base. Building is always full. The weather is typically pretty good, and typically get a pretty good signal on your cellphones," Wheeler said.
He got no argument from the Sharks.
"I love to play all over in Canada. The fans are great every time and the fans are great and I love to play there," Hertl said. "Everybody thinks I don’t like it there. It was just more somebody asked the questions and I made a joke. For sure, it’s no offence. It’s actually fun to play there with the fans cheering the whole game and being loud. There’s nothing about the city that I think is bad."
Braun echoed those sentiments and said this chapter in his career is likely one he’ll always remember.
"They’ve got good fans, they pack it out every night. That wasn’t the issue at all, with the team or anything, or anything they bring to the league. It wasn’t an ideal situation," Braun said. "Maybe I’ll get a hold of that video in 30 years and I can show my kids how I had a whole city mad at me."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 8:43 PM CST: Changes Czechoslovakia to the Czech Republic.
January 24, 2018 at 7:19 AM: Updated