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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hawks soak up 'cool' visit with Obama

Champs make return trip to White House

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CHICAGO -- The Blackhawks' back-to-back weekend games, including a convincing win in Winnipeg last Saturday, had the customary importance of the NHL's regular season.

Two points are two points, after all.

But a circled date on the Stanley Cup champions' calendar was the one after the games, Monday's visit to the Washington, D.C., area for trips to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and to the White House to celebrate another Cup win with the leader of the free world.

It was the second time the Hawks visited U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House. Chicago also won the Cup in 2010.

The president singled out numerous contributions during the team's run to another championship last season, including the leadership of 25-year-old captain Jonathan Toews, a Winnipegger.

"You just kind of get used to seeing him on TV and to be up close and have a chance to talk to someone with that amount of power and influence is a pretty cool thing," Toews said Wednesday morning, back at the United Center. "To go with his smarts, he's got a lot of personality and he loves sports and obviously he's a Chicago guy as well.

"We've had that connection for the last couple of years. Maybe the fact we made two White House trips during his time as president might bring us good luck and hopefully we can do it again."

Toews said it was a day to soak up, from start to finish.

"It was unfortunate we couldn't do that with our season but once we got past (the travel issues) and got out there, going to the White House and going to the Walter Reed hospital again for some of the guys in our room for the second time was equally special as last time," the captain said. "We got to see some people we know and I think even getting the chance to meet the president again and see him up close, you kind of understand how good he is at what he does in speaking to people and entertaining crowds in a certain way.

"It was pretty amazing. It was a fun day for our team, a pretty long one but we definitely enjoyed it."

Hawks defenceman Duncan Keith, who was born in Winnipeg, said the behind-the-scenes experiences might have been the best part of the day.

"We were sitting there hanging out with his dogs, petting his dogs," Keith said of the president. "It's just something that's a cool experience that you definitely remember for the rest of your life.

"He just seems like a laid-back guy to be honest with you. He seems very down to earth, easy to talk to. Obviously he's a good speaker; he just gives you that impression. He just makes everybody feel at ease."

Keith was amused by Obama's joke during Monday's official presentation that he could have put a hockey stick to good use on the political gridlock during the recent U.S. government shutdown.

"He's got some height there, probably got some reach, too," Keith chuckled. "He's probably a good athlete. Get him on some skates, yeah, but he may be past his prime for hockey.

"You never know."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2013 D2

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