Manitoba

Preds fan who heckled Byfuglien left speechless after discovering Jets defender's parents sitting behind him

When Ben McGreevy settled into his seat at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Sunday, he started giving Dustin Byfuglien the gears, as he usually does — not realizing the defender's parents were sitting directly behind him.

'My words couldn't come out,' but Big Buff's parents enjoyed the chirps, says Nashville Predators fan

Dustin Byfuglien celebrates his second goal in the Winnipeg Jets' 7-4 win over the Nashville Predators in Winnipeg on Tuesday. A Nashville fan who heckled the Jets defenceman during Sunday's game in Nashville got a bit of a surprise when he realized who was sitting behind him. (Jason Halstead / Getty Images)

When Ben McGreevy settled into his seat at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Sunday to watch Game 2 of the NHL's Central Division semifinals, he did what he always does when the Winnipeg Jets are in town.

He started giving Dustin Byfuglien the gears. 

But he noticed an odd reaction from the two people sitting behind him, who he had already pegged as Jets fans.

"I hear them laughing every single time I throw something at Byfuglien and finally, late in the second period, I stood up, and that's when I say, 'Byfuglien, you're the biggest piece of dirt on the ice!'

"And they just started dying at that," said McGreevy, who decided to apologize to the couple behind him.

Nashville Predators fan Ben McGreevy later learned the parents of Dustin Byfuglien, above, were sitting directly behind him at Sunday's game in Nashville. 'They knew I was trying to have fun with it,' he says. 'We just laughed about it.' (CBC)

"I turn around, and I acknowledge the fact that [Byfuglien's] a good player and that's why I do it, and they stop and say 'No, no, no, we think it's awesome, it's hilarious — he's our son.'"

It was only then that McGreevy realized the Jets fans sitting directly behind him were the parents of the six-foot-five, 260-pound Winnipeg defender.

"I was honestly speechless. My words couldn't come out. I just started stuttering — I've just insulted someone's son for two hours right in front of their face."

No hard feelings

But Big Buff's parents didn't seem to mind at all, and McGreevy and his friends spent the rest of the game chatting with the couple and a childhood friend of Byfuglien who was with them.

"They knew that none of the insults I was hurling were actually to rip on him. They knew I was trying to have fun with it," he said. "We just laughed about it."

This is why Dustin Byfuglien is called Big Buff

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Known for being a game changer, Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is heating up at the right time. Here are some of his biggest moments from the physical second-round series against the Nashville Predators. Warning: There may be some bad dance moves.

McGreevy, who describes himself as the kind of heckler who likes to "keep it casual and light," says it's not the first time he's chirped Byfuglien from his seat at a Predators game — in fact, the defenceman is his favourite target.

"Every Jets game that I've gone to, I like to pick on Byfuglien because the fans in Nashville — and I'm assuming a lot of places — really have disdain for Byfuglien," he explained of his well-honed heckling routine.

"It's his demeanour. You'll see him grab guys — I mean, there's no need for him to be in there.

"So I'll target him because everyone hates him."

McGreevy says he got along famously with Byfuglien's parents — who  took questions from his Twitter followers after he started live-tweeting the experience and even high-fived him after the Predators ultimately won the game.

So has the chance meeting change McGreevy's stance on heckling? Will he think twice about yelling hurtful words at opposing hockey players now that he knows their loved ones could be near?

"Absolutely not," McGreevy said without hesitation.

"I will take every chance I get to heckle. But I might check around me before the game starts — that is something I might start doing."

With files from CBC Manitoba's Information Radio

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