WASHINGTON — The Chicago Blackhawks complete their White House hat trick on Thursday, returning a third time to be honored for a Stanley Cup win by President Barack Obama.
And if the Canada-born Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wins his White House bid, then the next president, joked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest — not using Cruz’s name — “will be somebody who was born in Canada and will have an even greater appreciation for that sport and the skill that it requires.”
It’s well-known that Barack Obama is a basketball fan and player. So I asked Earnest where hockey fits in Obama’s sports interests and what he plans to say to the team on a third White House visit.
Earnest used my question to take that gentle poke at Cruz. Rival Donald Trump, as you may well know, is making an issue out of Cruz’s Canada birth, saying a judge needs to determine whether Cruz has the legal status to become president.
Back to hockey, where a hat trick is a term that refers to one player scoring three goals in one game.
“This particular president is a sports fan, and I think we all appreciate the amount of athleticism and skill that’s required to excel in that sport,” Earnest said.
As for the three-peat, “I don’t think there are too many other sports teams that have come to the White House three different times for winning championships. The UConn women’s basketball team comes to mind as a team that might have broken that record.
“But certainly the president is — is proud of his hometowm team, and looking forward to welcoming — welcoming them here,” Earnest said.
I asked, “And where does hockey fit in his sports interests?”
Earnest replied, “the president is not a regular viewer of the — of the sport. I think — I think even — even casual fans of hockey can appreciate, again, both the — the skill and athleticism that’s required to engage in that sport, but also appreciate how exciting — you know, playoff hockey is.
“And that brand of hockey is — is something that I think causes television ratings to spike, in playoff time for hockey, and — but — but, look. The — the president’s proud of his team, and is looking forward to seeing them here.”
On March 11, 2011, Obama honored the Blackhawks on the South Lawn of the White House for their 2010 Stanley Cup win.
And on Nov. 4, 2013, Obama met the team again after their 2013 Stanley Cup victory.
Said Obama in 2013, “Three years ago, the Hawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. And keep in mind, the Cubs have been waiting for 105 — so 49 might have not seemed so bad. But luckily, the second Stanley Cup came just a little bit quicker.”
And so did the third.