WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama made no attempt to hide his partisanship when it comes to sports teams.
Obama was beaming when he greeted the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Monday at the White House, welcoming his hometown team with a mixture of admiration, humor and knowledge of the journey that led to the Hawks' second trip to the nation's capital in three years during a seven-minute ceremony in The East Room.
"Since I took office we've hosted a lot of championship teams, from Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Miami, 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. Twice!" Obama said with a big smile. "Three years ago, the Hawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. And keep in mind, the Cubs have been waiting for 105 so 49 might have not seemed so bad. But luckily, the second Stanley Cup came just a little bit quicker."
With a gleaming Stanley Cup perched next to him and players and team personnel looking on, Obama made reference to the Hawks' historic start to the '13 season, the birth of Duncan Keith's son during the first round of the playoffs against the Wild, Patrick Kane's goal in double-overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Kings that sent the Hawks to the Stanley Cup Final, Andrew Shaw getting hit in the face with a puck during Game 6 against the Bruins and the 17-second span later in that contest when Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored goals to give the Hawks the title in Boston.
And then the president, who added that he "was getting a little tense" during the postseason, brought down the house when he joked about goaltender Corey Crawford's rather profane speech during the championship rally in Chicago.
"These are not just good hockey players, they're good guys," Obama said. "And that helps explain why 2 million Chicago fans came out to Grant Park to celebrate bringing home the Cup. 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. You guys have been hanging out with (Chicago Mayor) Rahm Emanuel too much."
Monday's events put an end to the celebration in the aftermath of the '13 Cup and the Chicago flair made it special for the Hawks, many of whom were on hand during a similar ceremony in 2011 that feted the '10 team.
"It definitely wasn't any less special than last time," captain Jonathan Toews said. "It's always cool to come back here. There's definitely some Chicago pride here in Washington and it was cool to see that. To be around President Obama again is a pretty special thing."
Added winger Patrick Kane, who has been around politicians for much of his life as his aunt, Bonnie Kane Lockwood, is a former Buffalo councilwoman: "Any time Chicago wins with (Obama's) ties to the city, he's going to be happy ... and for us to be back here twice during his term, I'm sure he's happy about that. It was pretty special to have it with him here being from Chicago."
Chairman Rocky Wirtz and President John McDonough presented Obama with a white Hawks sweater with "Obama" and the No. 13 on the back.
"The president was pretty excited about Chicago winning it again and being back here again is always special," coach Joel Quenneville said. "There are some perks along the way from winning a championship and this is one of them.
"To me, this is the one moment when you really can reflect back and say, 'Wow, it was a heck of a year we had' and we got to share it with one another. We'll walk that together forever. It's great to be a part of the history that's in this building and sharing it with the president is a special moment."
Even NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged the Chicago theme, saying, "You could definitely sense an energy related to some hometown cooking."
Obama wrapped up the proceedings with a plea to the other major pro teams in his hometown.
"To the Bulls, Bears, Cubs, White Sox, I am term-limited, so you guys have to get moving," he said. "I need to see you here soon. Championships belong in Chicago. So, to the Blackhawks, thank you for bringing it back home. Thanks for bringing the Stanley Cup."
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