Blackhawks honored at the White House

Monday, 11.04.2013 / 4:20 PM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com senior writer

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and a handful of his teammates, as well as one ex-teammate, now have more in common than just being Stanley Cup champions.

They can say they were called out by the President of the United States at the White House. Not too shabby.

President Barack Obama honored his hometown hockey team Monday for its 2013 Stanley Cup championship in front of a standing-room only crowd in the East Room. During his remarks, President Obama referenced Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Andrew Shaw and Corey Crawford in various forms of praise and comedy.

It was part of a celebration that the Blackhawks will never forget.

"Since I took office we've hosted a lot of championship teams -- from Boston and New York, Pittsburgh and Miami," President Obama said in his opening remarks. "But since I've been President only one team has brought a world championship to my hometown of Chicago. And now the Blackhawks have done it twice."

Upon arrival at the White House the Blackhawks were feted with an exclusive opportunity to mingle through several rooms in the East Wing, including a few that look out onto the South Lawn and one that has a view of the Rose Garden. They took pictures and marveled at the history.

The President greeted the Blackhawks, shook their hands and received a Stanley Cup replica popcorn maker as a gift prior to delivering his remarks.

"Some of the guys were laughing at me because he was moving pretty quick down the line and I was next to [Blackhawks Chairman] Rocky Wirtz and he shook his hand pretty quick," Kane said. "I put my hand out too quick while he was still talking to Rocky so my hand was out there waiting for him to shake my hand. It was a pretty funny moment."

During his speech President Obama praised Toews for being the captain of a team that has won the Stanley Cup twice despite his age.

"He's still only, by the way, 25 years old," President Obama said. "Now I don't remember everything I was doing when I was 25, but I wasn't doing that. That I'm pretty certain of. Incredible leadership on his part."

Toews presented the President with a white Blackhawks' jersey with the number 13 and OBAMA stitched on the back.

"Everyone knows the President is a huge sports fan and he's a proud Chicagoan as well," Toews said. "We had his support in the Cup run and it's nice to be here at the White House and spend the day with him."

President Obama went on to credit Kane for winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and sending the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final with his double-overtime winner in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.

"I will say some of the games were just stressful, though," President Obama said. "I was getting a little tense."

President Obama told the story of how Keith had to leave the team after Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals to be at his wife's bedside when she gave birth to their son Colton.

"Then he flew back to Minneapolis the same day, arrived two hours before the drop of the puck, helped lead the team to a win that put them up 3-1 in the series," President Obama said. "And about six weeks later Colton may have become the youngest person ever to be hoisted by the Cup. That hadn't happened before."

Keith said he's hoping to be able to return to the White House with his teammates before President Obama leaves office.

"He exemplifies what the people of Chicago are about," Keith told NHL.com. "He's a good person, down to earth."

President Obama pointed out that Bickell and Bolland, who now is with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was not in attendance Tuesday, scored the game-tying and Cup-clinching goals 17 seconds apart late in Game 6 against the Boston Bruins.

"That's the kind of clutch performance that would make [Michael] Jordan proud, which is why the statue was wearing a Blackhawks jersey during the playoffs," President Obama said, referencing the Jordan statue outside United Center.

The President even praised Shaw for auctioning off the stitches he received for being hit in the face by the puck during Game 6 of the Cup Final.

"That does raise the question, like, who's buying sutures?" President Obama said. "Somebody bid on this stuff. He raised almost $20,000 for the V Foundation to help cancer research."

The President thanked the Blackhawks for visiting the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., earlier Monday and pointed out that he met with four of the wounded warriors that the Blackhawks brought with them to the White House prior to making his remarks.

President Obama winked at the four wounded warriors sitting in the crowd. Marine Cpl. Patrick Brown and Army Capt. Mark Little are double-amputees, Army Sgt. First Class Joseph Bowser is a single amputee and Army Sgt. First Class Michael Davis has had double hip replacement surgeries.

"We're certainly appreciative of what they've done for us," coach Joel Quenneville said, "and President Obama said it best, that's the team that really keeps us going."

Before closing, President Obama got in one shot at Crawford for the expletive-laced speech he gave in Grant Park following the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship parade through the streets of Chicago in June.

"These are not just good hockey players, they're good guys and that helps explain why 2 million Chicago fans came out to Grant Park to celebrate bringing home the Cup," President Obama said. "Speaking of Grant Park, we were originally going to let Corey Crawford say a few words today, but we thought we'd keep this family event family-friendly."

Everyone in the room broke out in laughter. Crawford, standing on the top riser, smiled and nodded in the President's direction.

"I thought he hit it right out of the park on that one," Quenneville said. "Corey had a fun day that day; we all did."

The fun continued Monday, only this time they were wearing suits and ties and standing behind the President of the United States.

"To me this is the one moment where you really can reflect back and say, 'Wow, it was a heck of a year we had,'" Quenneville said. "We'll walk together forever with that group."

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