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Less than a week ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins opened the 2017-18 regular season with defeats to the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. The mood among Penguins players was much lighter Tuesday as the team visited President Donald Trump at the White House.
Pittsburgh came to Washington, D.C., a day ahead of its matchup with the Washington Capitals to celebrate its fifth Stanley Cup win in 2016-17. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Jason Mackey showed the players arriving at the White House grounds:
Jason Mackey @JMackeyPG
The Penguins — including a trimmed-up Phil — have arrived: https://t.co/RlhVxkLO4B
Prior to introducing members of the Penguins, Trump praised the deal-making abilities of team co-owner Ron Burkle. Trump said he should enlist Burkle to help renegotiate “horrible trade deals,” including the North American Free Trade Agreement, per CNN:
Trump jokes Penguins co-owner is a great negotiator — “If you want to get involved in negotiating NAFTA, I like it” https://t.co/UPBTJ2o9h5
Trump proceeded to single out many of the Penguins’ top stars, including team captain Sidney Crosby. The president wondered whether Crosby has surpassed Penguins legend and co-owner Mario Lemieux, per Huffington Post’s Marina Fang:
Marina Fang @marinafang
Trump to Sidney Crosby: “What a job you’ve done,” before turning to Mario Lemieux: “Has he out done you yet, Mario?”
Trump referred to Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who combined to score 77 goals and register 84 assists last season, as the “two-headed monster,” which led to some raised eyebrows on Twitter:
John Matisz @MatiszJohn
Trump claims Malkin and Crosby are referred to as the “two-headed monster.” I’ve never heard that.
Greg Wyshynski @wyshynski
They don’t call it the “two-headed monster.” #FakeNews #Penguins
Trump also had some fun with Phil Kessel, telling the Penguins forward he may not be the best hockey player in his own family, according to KDKA’s Bob Pompeani. Amanda Kessel won a silver medal with the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and she helped the U.S. win gold at the 2013 and 2017 World Championships.
Trump, a native of New York City, referenced how much more successful the Penguins have been of late compared to the New York Rangers, whose last Stanley Cup came in 1994.
“You do a lot of damage to our Rangers. But it’s called winning, right Sidney?” Trump said, per Mackey.
For The Win’s Hemal Jhaveri noted there were some differences between the Penguins’ visit to the White House this year compared to last:
Hemal Jhaveri @hemjhaveri
Differences from last year, Penguins didn’t give Trump a gift, there’s no team photo with President and the Cup.
There was initially the question as to whether the Penguins would visit Trump at all. A number of New England Patriots players skipped the ceremony to honor the team’s Super Bowl LI victory, and Trump rescinded his invitation to the Golden State Warriors after some players said they wouldn’t go if offered the chance.
The Penguins formally accepted their invitation in September, and team captain Sidney Crosby said Monday the players weren’t making a political statement by choosing to visit the White House.
“From my side of things, there’s absolutely no politics involved,” Crosby said, per the Washington Post‘s Cindy Boren. “Hopefully it stays that way. It’s a visit we’ve done in the past. It’s been a good experience. It’s not about politics, that’s for sure.”