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Penguins notebook: At White House, Cullen recalls Cup celebration memories

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, October 6, 2016 3:39 p.m
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Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Penguins met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday, October 6, 2016.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama meets with the Pittsburgh Penguins during a celebration in the East Room of the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016 in Washington DC.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington DC.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama makes light of Phil Kessel in the East Room of the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama with the Penguins in the East Roomof the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in the East Room of the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman greet President Obama in the East Room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016 in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama waves to the crowd in the East Room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama has to move the mini Stanley Cup to set down the Stanley Cup with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in the East Room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama shares a laugh with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in the East Room of the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama shakes hands with Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan in the East Room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
President Obama poses with the Penguins in the East Room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins Evgeni Malkin (second from right top) shares a lighter moment with teammates before a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby speaks to the media after a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby speaks to the media after a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman greet President Obama in the East Room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016 in Washington.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman presents the President of the United States Barack Obama a miniature Stanley Cup in the East room during a celebration at the White House Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016 in Washington DC.

WASHINGTON — With all due respect to the office of the presidency, the three sons of Penguins center Matt Cullen, all under age 10, didn’t think their dad’s White House visit Thursday was the coolest thing he did all summer.

“You know, they weren’t that impressed,” Cullen admitted. “I gotta be honest. They were like, ‘Eh, going to the White House? That’s good.’ ”

The boys were much more excited their dad won the Stanley Cup in the first place … and that they got to take to the ice on the night the championship was clinched in June in San Jose.

“Getting on the ice for the Finals, that was pretty cool,” Cullen said. “You know how kids are. It’s like, ‘I have hockey practice tonight.’ They’re more into that. But it’s fun. Down the road, I think it’s something they’ll appreciate.”

Bearing gifts

Sidney Crosby presented President Barack Obama with a No. 44 Penguins jersey and a miniature replica of the Stanley Cup.

It was the least Crosby could do after the effusive introduction Obama gave the Penguins captain while he congratulated the team in an East Room speech.

“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. He even won an Emmy,” Obama said. “And of course he hoisted this trophy right here, his second Stanley Cup to match his mentor, Super Mario.”

Trophy question

Gary Bettman was in attendance at the ceremony. Obama took the opportunity to ask the NHL commissioner a question he had been wondering about.

“I’m going to need you to explain to me how the President’s Trophy (awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season) is not the highest award a team can win,” Obama joked.

Presidential ad-lib

Obama veered off script for a moment in the middle of his speech to console a crying child in the audience.

“Don’t worry. I don’t have any more bad jokes,” Obama said. “It’s like, “Aw, these are so corny.’ ”

Shoutouts

Among the Pennsylvania politicians in attendance, Obama made it a point to welcome Sen. Bob Casey and mayor Bill Peduto.

When he mentioned Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during last season, he gave a nod to the northeastern corner of the state, as well.

“That’s (Vice President Joe) Biden Country and Casey Country,” Obama said.

Two Wilkes-Barre/Scranton players who were part of last season’s championship run, center Oskar Sundqvist and defenseman Steve Oleksy, were in attendance at the White House. Three players who left the team in the offseason — defenseman Ben Lovejoy, winger Beau Bennett and goalie Jeff Zatkoff — were not present.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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