Jonathan Bernier mistakenly praises Mandela's hockey skills

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier made a very public mistake when he was interviewed about Nelson Mandela at a Raptors event honouring the "Giant of Africa's" incredible legacy.

Thought Raptors tribute was for 'known athlete'

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier's 44-save performance in Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks was overshadowed by the Mandela gaffe. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier created quite a stir when he mistakenly praised Nelson Mandela's accomplishments "on and off the ice" at Friday's Raptors event. 

The Toronto Raptors paid tribute to Mandela on the anniversary of his death. Unfortunately, Bernier wasn't aware of the honouree's significance beyond his apparent ice hockey career prior to attending the event. The Toronto Star reported that the 26-year-old Laval native apologized for his mistake. 

“I’m embarrassed,” said Bernier. “I didn’t mean to offend him, his legacy. I got flustered with the red carpet and I was nervous. I think everyone makes mistakes and that was me that night.”

A video of his answer has resurfaced after being removed by the Raptors on Friday due to criticism from fans. 

Bernier deserves some credit for apologizing for his gaffe. But it was too late for some people on social media.

A few people made the seemingly fair assumption that he must have been referring to Mandela's interest in boxing. 

Some people are giving the Leafs' goalie a pass for not knowing about Mandela's legacy, while others are criticizing the Raptors organization for posting the video given his error. The take away from this snafu could simply be that when in doubt sometimes it's better to just say nothing at all. 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?