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Penguins Visit White House

Thursday, 09.10.2009 / 11:23 PM / Features
By Sam Kasan
WASHINTON, DC - President Barack Obama hosted the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at a ceremony at the White House to congratulate the team on their accomplishment of winning the NHL title.

“Congratulations on your outstanding season,” Obama said. “For not just your athleticism but also your sportsmanship, we’re very proud of you.”

The Penguins 2009 championship team was reunited for the day. The players, coaches and staff flew to the nation’s capital to take part in the historic event and meet President Obama.

“We’ve had a lot of championship teams visit and I’ve seen a lot of trophies,” Obama said. “There is something special about the Stanley Cup, other than it just being really big. Winning this trophy takes a whole new level of sacrifice. It takes a group of players that persevere through injures, pain, setbacks and seven-game series. Above all it takes a team to stick together because nobody wins the Stanley Cup on their own.”

“It was an honor and a privilege to receive the invitation to come here,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We are very gracious and appreciative.”

Bylsma then presented Obama with a Penguins No. 44 jersey with “Obama” written on the back.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Obama joked.

here is something special about the Stanley Cup, other than it just being really big. Winning this trophy takes a whole new level of sacrifice. It takes a group of players that persevere through injures, pain, setbacks and seven-game series. Above all it takes a team to stick together because nobody wins the Stanley Cup on their own. - President Obama
Obama also gave credit to Pittsburgh’s two superstars, captain Sidney Crosby and NHL scoring champion and playoff MVP Evgeni Malkin.

“I’d like to congratulate Sidney Crosby on becoming the youngest captain in history to win (the Cup),” Obama said, “and Evgeni Malkin for being the third-youngest (playoff) MVP.”

In another comical moment, when Obama said Malkin’s name, the Russian star raised his hand with a big grin on his face. He then tried to snap a photo of the President with his cell phone while the crowd laughed in delight.

“Just seeing the history of the White House and then meeting the President, being this close away to the leader of the free world is pretty special and unique experience,” Bylsma said.

The President Obama also took a comical jab at Crosby.

“Sidney must be really fast because there are some big hockey players and he’s not one of them,” Obama said. “But you know he’s got some speed and some skill.”

Crosby laughed at the President’s good-hearted joke.

“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Crosby said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Before meeting the President, the Penguins crew was given a tour of the White House. The team saw the East Wing of the White House, which included the Gold Room (featuring portraits of past first ladies), the Library (which contains over 2,700 volumes of American literature history), China Room (featuring exotic china donated from past presidents), the Diplomatic Reception Room (where foreign diplomats are received and welcomed to the White House), as well as the Green Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room and the State Dining Room.

“It was a pretty compact day,” Orpik said. “We started really early this morning and everybody was kind of dragging but we were so excited that it didn’t matter. I was lucky enough to come here in 2001 winning in college (NCAA title). I wasn’t any less excited this time. Any time you come here it’s a unique thing.”

Prior to the White House visit, a select few players from the team took part in a youth hockey clinic.

Crosby, veteran Bill Guerin, forward Jordan Staal, Orpik and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury took part in the clinic, which is a central component of the National Hockey League’s partnership with United We Serve, the initiative established by President Obama to challenge all Americans to engage in sustained, meaningful community service.

“It’s a great opportunity to help these kids and help the sport grow,” Crosby said. “This whole day is awesome. Kids in general, no matter where they’re from or where they’re playing, they’re out there because they love it. They’re easy to teach and they want to learn. A program like this is great for kids to learn.”

“Besides teaching those kids some new moves,” Obama said, “they taught these kids the importance of staying in school and leading healthy, active life styles. This spirit of service strengthens our communities, strengthens our country and this team gives a lot in return.”

But still, the biggest attraction of the day was meeting the leader of the free world.

“Standing that close to him at the podium and hearing him speak falls in line with the ‘pinch me’ storyline,” Bylsma said. “A lot can happen in a year’s time.”
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