WASHINGTON -- In welcoming the 2016 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House on Thursday, President Barack Obama provided a reminder that in addition to being the commander in chief, he also can be the comedian in chief.
"We are here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement," Obama said in his opening remarks during a reception in the East Room. "Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion."
The room erupted in laughter and cheers while the president looked back at a smiling Kessel. The 29-year-old right wing often has been scrutinized and twice traded during his 10-season NHL career. But Kessel is the one laughing now after winning the Stanley Cup for the first time last season.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said he didn't think the president was making fun of Kessel.
"I didn't feel like he took a shot [at Kessel]," Crosby said. "I think he's just having a good time. To be able to win and to be able to have this experience, it's just a great opportunity to come here and it's one of the things that comes with winning."
Video: Obama honors Stanley Cup Champion Penguins
The Penguins also received a White House tour Thursday. Kessel posed at the presidential lectern for a photo with "HBK Line" teammates Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino. Obama gave the line a shout-out later in his speech, saying they "were so dominant that they earned their own sandwich at Primanti Brothers."
The HBK sandwich included ham, bacon and kielbasa.
Obama complimented general manager Jim Rutherford for promoting coach Mike Sullivan from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate, on Dec. 12, 2015. Prior to working for the Penguins, Sullivan spent 2014-15 as a development coach for Obama's hometown team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
"[Rutherford] was smart enough to see that Sullivan had coached in the Blackhawks organization, so he knew Sullivan brought a lot to the table," Obama said.
Crosby, 29, also received from playful ribbing from the president, who noted that when the Penguins last visited the White House in 2009, "'Sid the Kid' was actually a kid."
The president confessed to "taking a cheap shot at Sid for his size (5-foot-11, 200 pounds)," during that 2009 visit, referring to his jab that, "Sidney must be really fast because there are some big hockey players, and he's not one of them."
"Of course, since then he's won two Olympic golds, a World Championship, a World Cup MVP, a [Stanley Cup] Playoff MVP, another NHL MVP, a mountain of other postseason awards," Obama said Thursday. "He even won an Emmy. And of course he hoisted this trophy right here, his second Stanley Cup, to match his mentor, Super Mario [Penguins owner Mario Lemieux]."
The president then turned serious to laud Crosby for handing the Stanley Cup to injured defenseman Trevor Daley to start the procession following the Penguins' championship-clinching victory against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.
"During the playoffs, defenseman Trevor Daley's mom was battling cancer and told him that she was going to keep fighting so she'd see her son lift the Cup," Obama said. "The captain always chooses who gets it second. It's a big honor. Sid surprised everybody, including Trevor, by handing it to him. Trevor's mom, Trudy, got to see her son skate around with it on a broken ankle and then passed away a few days later.
"That's a testament to the kind of person Sid is, but also the kind of team this is."