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Remarks by the President in Welcoming the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins

Thursday, October 6, 2016 14:06
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(Before It's News)

East Room

12:18 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: It is wonderful to be here. Welcome to the White House! And we are here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement — Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup Champion! (Applause.)

We’ve got some special guests in the house, some big fans who are members of Congress. We got NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Gary, I have to say I respect Lord Stanley, but I’m going to need you to explain to me how something called the President’s Trophy is the not highest award a team can win. (Laughter.)

But we're actually making some history here today. I am proud to be the first President to welcome to the White House eight Cup-winning teams — all of whom are based in the United States. I reminded the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau — we had a state dinner here — about that not too long ago. And that, of course, includes this year’s outstanding champions. Let’s give it up for the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Applause.)

This is a nice bookend to my presidency because the first year, you guys won the Cup. Now you’re coming back for my final year. A lot has changed during the interim. Back in 2009, my hair matched the color of a puck more than the ice. (Laughter.) “Sid the Kid” was actually a kid. (Laughter.) And Geno was still snapping pictures with a flip phone. (Laughter.)

But what I like best about this team’s victory is that no one thought they could pull it off. I obviously sympathize with that — they said the same thing about me. (Laughter.) Mike Sullivan started the season coaching the minor league team in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. That's Biden country and Casey country. In late December, the Pens were closer to last place than first. Spirits were low. And when the team designed its 50th anniversary logo for the upcoming season, it referenced the franchise’s three Cups because no one imagined they were about to win a fourth.

And then “GM of the Year,” Jim Rutherford got to work. He was smart enough to see that Sullivan had coached in the Blackhawks organization (laughter) — so he knew Sullivan brought a lot to the table. Goalie Matt Murray, a rookie, was a brick wall. The H-B-K line — none of whom were on the team last year — were so dominant that they earned their own sandwich at Primanti Brothers. (Laughter.) The Pens went 14-2 down the stretch to finish second in the East. (Baby cries.) And then — don't worry. I don't have any more bad jokes. (Laughter.) It’s like, aww, these are so corny. (Laughter.) Yes, I know. (Laughter.) And then they powered through three rounds, each tougher than the last, before taking care of the Sharks in six games, one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of the NHL.

Of course, leading the way was my fellow lefty, Sidney Crosby. Last time he was here, I took a cheap shot at Sid for his size. I wasn’t the first one on or off the ice. Of course, since then, he’s won two Olympic Golds, a World Championship, a World Cup MVP, a Playoff MVP, another NHL MVP, a mountain of other postseason awards, even won an Emmy! And of course, he hoisted this trophy right here, his second Stanley Cup, to match his mentor, Super Mario. So — Sid. (Applause.)

And obviously nobody has to tell you his extraordinary achievements on the ice, but here’s something worth mentioning. During the playoffs, Defenseman Trevor Daley’s mom was battling cancer. She told him that she was going to keep fighting so she’d see her son lift the Cup. Now, the captain always chooses who gets it second. It’s a big honor. Sid surprised everybody, including Trevor, by handing it to him. Trevor’s mom, Trudy, got to see her son skate around with it — on a broken ankle — and then passed away a few days later. And that's a testament to the kind of person Sid is, but also the kind of team this is.

All summer, these players shared the Cup with their families. Nick Bonino brought it to his grandparents’ place, where they ate his Nana’s famous tuna fish pasta out of it. (Laughter.) He let his infant daughter, Maisie, sit in it. A Cup celebration spanning four generations — to paraphrase the legendary “Badger Bob” Johnson, that’s “a great day for hockey.”

And, of course, the people of Pittsburgh love their Penguins, including their outstanding mayor. Bill, where are you? Is he — I heard he’s here. Bill Peduto. (Applause.) Four hundred thousand people welcomed them home from San Jose, the largest crowd for a sports parade in the city’s history, which is saying something for the City of Champions.

Pittsburgh also appreciates this team — as do I — for what they've done in the community. A bunch of the players brought the Cup to Children’s Hospital — in fact, it was Ian Cole’s very first stop. Inspired by Michelle’s Let’s Move! initiative, the Penguins Foundation started Project PowerPlay to get more kids exercising, and now it’s helping to restore city and county parks across Pittsburgh. The foundation is also raising awareness about concussions for young athletes. And the Pens have been leaders in the Green Sports Alliance, making their facilities more energy- and water-efficient, lowering their carbon footprint when they travel. I want to thank Commissioner Bettman and the entire NHL for leading the way in environmentally sustainable sports — because we want to continue to have ice so that we can play hockey!

You guys are champions because of your persistence, because of your teamwork, the faith in each other. You've set a great example for the city and for the league. Keep up the great work on and off the ice. Have a great season.

And once again, let’s hear it for the World Champion — or at least the NHL Champion, and we're going to call them the World Champion Pittsburgh Penguins! (Applause.)

2:28 P.M. EDT

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