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White House visit

Sidney Crosby, Penguins visit White House

Captain calls trip 'unique' experience, honored to meet President Barack Obama

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby stopped and asked to have one more photo taken of himself outside the doorway of the White House before he headed to the team bus Thursday.

"When you're here you try to take pictures and remember as much as you can," Crosby said.

The White House visit with President Barack Obama had been a whirlwind for Crosby and the Penguins, the culmination of an offseason of celebration following their victory against the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final in six games.

After a morning flight from Pittsburgh, the Penguins arrived at the White House at around 10:15 a.m. On the way in, Crosby recognized a familiar face and stopped to shake hands with a former Penguins' athletic training intern who happened to be working his first day with the Secret Service.

The Penguins were then taken on a tour of the East Wing.

On the ground floor, they walked through the China Room and the library before heading upstairs to the State Floor. Uniformed guides told stories about the State Dining Room and the paintings and furniture in Red, Blue and Green rooms.

"Listening to some of the people that work here that have told us about the history, whether it be the furniture or the portraits or how certain furniture is situated in certain rooms is something that is all interesting," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "There's so much history that is part of this White House and to have an opportunity to experience this is quite an honor."

Video: Obama honors Stanley Cup Champion Penguins

It was Sullivan's first visit to the White House. It was the second trip for Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, who went after he won the Stanley Cup with Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

"Lots of things stand out," Rutherford said. "They don't move the pictures around a whole lot. I've asked people, 'Is there a reason why certain pictures are in certain places?'"

Goaltender Matt Murray sat in the Green Room directly across from a portrait of Benjamin Franklin that dates back to 1767 and is the oldest painting in the White House. In the Blue Room, Crosby and Matt Cullen were among a group of Penguins who listened to the story about the painting of James Tyler, the 10th President of the United States.

Tyler took over the presidency in April, 1841 after William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia a month into his term. He would go on to serve in the Confederate House of Representatives during the U.S. Civil War, causing some to call him the "Traitor President."

"It's just pretty amazing being in here and being able to hear the stories and appreciate everything that has happened here and everything that this is," Cullen said.

Cullen also visited the White House with the Hurricanes in 2006. This time around, he's a father of three boys, who were "not that impressed" that their dad was visiting the home of the president.

"They're like, 'Oh yeah, you're going to the White House? That's great,'" Cullen said. "It's fun to be able to explain to them what's going on and kind of take them through it, but it's just funny. Kids aren't overly impressed with anything it seems like. Maybe when they get older."

Crosby was 22 when he visited and met Obama following the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup win. As Obama joked Thursday, "Sid the kid was actually a kid," back then.

"I remember some parts from the last time, but other parts I don't," Crosby said. "So it's cool to come back and see everything and, even seeing guys who haven't been here before, their reaction is pretty neat."

Prior to a news conference with Obama in the East Room, the Penguins met with him privately in the State Dining Room. Crosby had a chance to speak with him briefly.

Tweet from @TomGulittiNHL: President: "We are here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement. Phil Kessel won the Stanley Cup."

"It's an honor to meet him and an honor to be able to come here," Crosby said. "Winning is fun and great, but the things that come along with it, experiences like this are pretty unique. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to see it again."

During the news conference, Obama remarked that the Penguins' visit provided, "a nice bookend to my presidency because the first year you guys won the Cup. Now, you're coming back during my final year."

Obama also mentioned that he was, "the first president to welcome to the White House eight Cup-winning teams, all of whom are based in the United States."

"I reminded Canadian Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau at a state dinner here about that not too long ago," Obama said.

Crosby, who is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, diplomatically chose not mention that Team Canada won World Cup of Hockey 2016 last week. When asked later if he'd ever considered getting into politics, Crosby quickly replied, "No. Definitely not."

Obama lauded the Penguins for completing, "one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of the NHL", going from being "closer to last place than first" in late December to winning the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in team history.

Sullivan, who received a congratulatory phone call from the president on June 22, called the entire day, "a unique experience."

"Any time you have the opportunity to interact with the President of the United States, I think it's an honor and a privilege," Sullivan said. "Everything that that office of the president represents, especially for someone like myself that's an American citizen, I think we hold that in high regard."

The Penguins headed back to Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon to resume preparations for the regular season. They will receive their Stanley Cup rings on Monday and then their focus will turn completely to the season, which they open against the Washington Capitals at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 13.

Crosby wouldn't mind coming back and doing it all again next year.

"Hopefully, we get a chance to come back here. That would be nice," he said. "But, if that doesn't happen, you look at all the guys and how excited as a group we are to be here, that's a great experience."

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