The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks is the first professional team from Obama’s hometown to win a national championship since the White Sox ran away with the World Series in 2005.
“We have a proud tradition in Chicago of believing that – no matter how long it takes, how much we have to endure – our team finally wins it all,” Obama said. “But waiting builds character. We have a lot of character. I have to say, even by Chicago standards, 49 years, that’s a pretty long time.”
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in June, beating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. It was the first Stanley Cup for the “Original Six” team since 1961, the second-longest Cup drought in NHL history (the New York Rangers went 54 years without a title).
Obama offered special praise for coach Joel Quenneville and players, including forward Patrick Kane, one of only three American players on the team. Kane scored the cup-winning goal in sudden-death overtime.
“This was the kind of tough, talented, selfless team that Chicago had been waiting for,” Obama said. “It was a team built around people like Coach Q, who brought years of experience and focus to the bench. Players like 22-year-old captain Jonathan Toews, who lit up the ice on his way to being named playoff MVP. There’s Patrick Kane, who scored the biggest goal in franchise history in the overtime to win the cup.”
Blackhawks President John McDonough presented Obama with a Blackhawks jersey customized with his name and the number “44.”
“We’ve even got some blood on here to show it’s authentic,” Obama joked.
Standing next to the Stanley Cup, team captain Jonathan Toews presented Obama with a miniature replica.
“When I first saw this I thought, ‘It looks so much bigger on TV,’” Obama said, holding his replica and wearing one of the team’s Stanley Cup rings.
The ceremony was part of a four-day trip to Washington for the team. Players brought the Stanley Cup with them when they visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Thursday. Their Washington stay will conclude with a Sunday afternoon game against the hometown Washington Capitals.