April 20, 2014
WASHINGTON — Over the past five years, dozens of teams — Super Bowl winners and World Series winners, NBA champions and NCAA champions, NASCAR crews and soccer clubs — have been welcomed to the White House by President Barack Obama. And each time, he said all the right things, heaped all the proper praise, smiled the big smile while holding a personalized jersey.
But you get the sense it’s a little different when it’s a Chicago team in the house.
“You can tell he wants more Chicago teams to win,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said Monday afternoon shortly after Obama beamed and joked and jabbed his way through a snappy seven-minute ceremony in the East Room of the White House, honoring the Stanley Cup champions for a second time in his presidency. “He’s really rooting on the Bears and Bulls and the two baseball teams to win before his term ups. … It was pretty special to have it with him here, being from Chicago.”
On the five-year anniversary of his election, Obama made it clear he was getting impatient.
“Since I’ve been president, only one team has brought a world championship to my hometown of Chicago,” he said. “And now the Blackhawks have done it twice. Twice! So congratulations again to the Blackhawks. To the Bulls, Bears, Cubs, White Sox — I am term-limited, so you guys have got to get moving. I need to see you here soon. Championships belong in Chicago.”
Obama, a noted White Sox fan, took a jab at the Cubs, saying the Hawks’ 49-year drought until their 2010 title was nothing compared with the North Siders’ interminable 105 years — and counting — wait. He also had some fun with Corey Crawford’s infamous profane speech during the Hawks’ post-parade rally in Grant Park.
He mentioned Duncan Keith’s son being born during the playoffs, Andrew Shaw taking a puck in the face and auctioning off the stitches for charity, and the now-immortalized “17 seconds” goals by Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland.
“That’s the kind of clutch performance that would make [Michael] Jordan proud,” Obama said.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has seen the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins visit Obama’s White House after winning the Stanley Cup. Even he noticed the difference in Obama’s enthusiasm with the Hawks in town a second time.
“You could definitely sense an energy related to some hometown cooking,” Bettman said.
Earlier in the day, the Hawks again visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center. They then had a meet-and-greet with Obama in the Blue Room before the official ceremony next door.
In 2010, they had nearly three full days in Washington before a game against the Capitals, but they had to make a day trip out of it this time around.
For first-timers such as young Americans Brandon Saad and Nick Leddy, it was a jaw-dropping experience. For former Hawks such as Flyers goalie Ray Emery and retired forward Jamal Mayers, it was a chance to reunite and reminisce with old teammates. And for the Hawks who’ve been here and done this before, it wasn’t any less special.
You could tell the same was true for Obama.
“It’s always cool to come back here,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “There’s definitely some Chicago pride here in Washington, and it’s cool to see that.”