President needles Crosby
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama took a verbal jab at Penguins captain Sidney Crosby Thursday, and if footage of the good-natured knock finds it way onto the Internet, chances are the club’s other star center, Evgeni Malkin, will be to blame.
Standing third from the left in the back row on a riser in the East Room of the White House, Malkin snapped pictures with and texted from his cell phone as Obama welcomed the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
“I’d say that’s par for the course,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said of Malkin’s innocent actions after a brief, early-evening ceremony during which Obama posed with the Cup and received a black Penguins sweater containing his surname, defenseman Brooks Orpik’s No. 44 and captain Sidney Crosby’s “C” — though not before a shot that even Crosby considered sweet.
“Sidney must be really fast,” Obama said, “because there are some big hockey players, and he’s not one of them.”
The remark drew laughs from a room filled with members of the Penguins organization, including family, team officials, hockey operations staff, trainers and equipment managers. Local and state officials in attendance were Senators Arlen Specter and Robert Casey Jr. and Representatives Mike Doyle, Jason Altmire, Tim Murphy, Chris Carney and Glenn Thompson. Also attending was Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack, a Pennsylvania native.
Obama was not content to rib only Crosby.
“Where’s Luke?” he asked of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who was not present. “Where’s the mayorâ¢ I thought he was around here. Well, he should be.”
Laughter followed that statement, as did Obama’s comment about Crosby, who is listed at 5-foot-11.
Crosby, who presented Obama with his gift sweater, gleefully accepted Obama’s slight.
“The President (jabbed) me,” he said afterward. “I’ll take it.”
He joined teammates Orpik and veteran winger Bill Guerin in describing the club’s White House experience as “pretty awesome” — even though as a Canadian he was among 17 foreign-born players who shared a stage with a President they could not vote in the November election.
“It’s just as special as it is for everybody else,” Crosby said. “I never dreamed I’d have a chance to make it here.”
Americans joining Obama on stage were Bylsma, Orpik, Guerin, defensemen Mark Eaton and Alex Goligoski; majority co-owner Ron Burkle; team president David Morehouse; and general manager Ray Shero.
Obama described sharing a stage with Penguins icon Mario Lemieux as “a pretty big deal.”
So was visiting the White House, which the Penguins hadn’t done since 1992.
Bylsma, who Sunday will conduct his first training camp practice as the club’s head coach, stumbled as he left the stage to help Obama retrieve the Cup, which the Penguins won for a third time June 12 with a dramatic Game 7 victory at Detroit in the Final.
Players faux-jeered in unison after Bylsma’s misstep and clapped with surprise astonishment as Malkin spent much of the ceremony either engaged with cell-phone shenanigans or waiving to familiar faces among the crowd.
Before their visit, the Penguins visited a local rink and joined youth players from Western Pennsylvania and the Washington metro area for a clinic.
Only months removed from welcoming the Super Bowl champion Steelers to the White House, Obama said he holds “a special place in his heart for Pittsburgh” — though he wishes his adopted hometown of Chicago was the “City of Champions.”
“I guess it’s a good time to be a sports fan from Pittsburgh,” he said. “I was complaining about this. It’s been a while since Chicago won anything.”
Obama, whom Bylsma said he would play at the left point on the power play, also mentioned the Penguins’ previous visit to Washington in May. They won Game 7 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series against Crosby’s rival Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.
At a Capitals players’ workout earlier in the day, Capitals winger Matt Bradley admitted that hearing of the Penguins visit to his club’s city with the Cup was a bitter pill to swallow.
“Yeah, it bothers me,” he said. “They are big rivals of ours.”
NOTES: Individual game tickets or the regular season will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Saturday. … Winger Ryan Bayda will attend training camp on a professional tryout.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU
A look current and former Penguins players who attended the organization’s visit to the White House, where on Thursday the Stanley Cup champions were honored by President Barack Obama:
PLAYER, POSITION — NATIONALITY
Eric Godard, RW — Canada
Jordan Staal, C — Canada
Evgeni Malkin, C — Russia
Brooks Orpik, D — USA
Ruslan Fedotenko, LW — Ukraine
Bill Guerin, RW — USA
Sergei Gonchar, RW — Russia
Mark Eaton, D — USA
Philippe Boucher, D — Canada
Miroslav Satan, RW — Czechoslovakia
Marc-Andre Fleury, G — Canada
Mathieu Garon, G — Canada
Pascal Dupuis, LW — Canada
Alex Goligoski, D — USA
Craig Adams, RW — Brunei
Max Talbot, C/RW — Canada
Chris Kunitz, LW — Canada
Tyler Kennedy, RW — Canada
Kris Letang, D — Canada
Mike Zigomanis, C — Canada
Sidney Crosby, C — Canada