WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR/AP) – On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins traded the center ice for the center of the national spotlight. The team celebrated its latest Stanley Cup victory with a trip to the White House.
President Trump welcomed the Penguins into the Oval Office on Tuesday. He celebrated their second consecutive championship in the East Room of the White House and singled out the achievements of playoff MVP Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and American Phil Kessel, among others.
“You are true, true champions and incredible patriots,” Trump said.
He had nothing but nice things to say to the Penguins.
“You embody the values of dedication, discipline.”
Trump joked that Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle should help him renegotiate NAFTA but avoided any talk about other sports.
The President has grabbed a number of sports headlines in recent weeks, including his criticism of NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem and his decision to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to the White House.
Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan said his team was aware of the controversy.
“Nobody’s choosing a side. Nobody’s taking a stand.”
The Penguins say their White House visit is about celebrating their own accomplishments and not an attempt to weigh in on the politics of the day.
“We have players on our roster from six different countries and so anytime you have an opportunity to visit the White House and see it up close and personal with the history and what the White House represents to the United States,” Sullivan said.
Trump said he’d welcome the team back next year but, of course, the Penguins have to do the hard part — that is, winning their third Stanley Cup Championship in a row.
The Penguins are the fourth championship team and third pro team to visit Trump at the White House after the NFL’s New England Patriots, Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, and college football’s Clemson Tigers.