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Chicagoans in D.C. gleefully cheer on their Blackhawks

Updated: December 6, 2013 6:28AM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama welcomed the Blackhawks to the White House before an East Room audience packed with well-connected Chicagoans — not all big shots — and in a private meeting with the team, he received that indispensible gift: a popcorn maker in the shape of the Stanley Cup.

The East Room was packed for the ceremony. Some current or former Chicagoans. Some ex-pats. Some staffers from the suburbs and other parts of Illinois now working in Washington.

Later, the Stanley Cup traveled to Capitol Hill to rest for a few hours in the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) while a stream of staffers, Illinoisans past and present, and even some reporters posed for pictures with the Cup.

This was a rerun of the March 11, 2011, Blackhawks visit to the White House and the Stanley Cup reception in Durbin’s office celebrating their 2010 championship. In 2011, the team gave Obama a Blackhawks red jersey with the number “44” on the back honoring the 44th president. On Monday, the team gave Obama a white jersey with the number 13 on it, to mark their 2013 victory.

For all the hoopla over having a Chicago president, there are not many Chicago-centric moments in the White House.

Monday was one of them. A Chicago proud day.

Sitting in the front row were Durbin, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., a hockey player, hockey superfan and hockey honcho in the Congressional Hockey Caucus.

Quigley is “more excited than anyone here,” said Aviva Bowen, Quigley’s former press secretary, sitting in the East Room next to her husband, Tom, who ran Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s political operation and who was the campaign manager for Bill Daley’s short-lived Democratic run for Illinois governor.

Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions, was coming to Washington for a meeting with other business leaders and with Obama and Vice President Biden on Tuesday to boost the push for the House to pass immigration reform. Brown said he wanted to be at the White House on Monday to “show my support” for the team.

John Atkinson, a top executive at the insurance giant Willis Group Holdings, was in the audience to “celebrate with our Chicago president and the great Blackhawks.” Atkinson, who mulled a Democratic House run a few years ago, is the finance chair for Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D.-Ill, making him her top fundraiser.

Chris Quinn, a resident of Beverly, was wearing his Blackhawks jersey. He told me he drove here from Chicago. His clout was Gov. Pat Quinn — no relation — who secured the White House invite for him because he is a vet, a member of the Air National Guard.

Mike Zolfo, who grew up in Aurora and who attends Catholic University here, was an intern in the City of Chicago’s D.C. office this summer. Working for Emanuel provided his entree to the Blackhawks event.

“We have a Chicago president, we have a Chicago team. To get to see them here, it’s just a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I had to go. It’s just awesome.”


Twitter: @lynnsweet

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