3:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. This is a great honor for me because I’m a hockey fan and I’m a Capitals fan. And Ted, I’m you’re fan too, if you want to the know the truth, okay?
MR. LEONSIS: Very nice, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: And this guy — I have no choice but to be his fan — (laughter) — because he is something special. Look at those hands. Huh? (Laughter.) Come on. Special guy. Special athlete, player. They all are.
They won something last year, and it was just — that’s all people wanted to talk about. I couldn’t get them focused on other things that we deal with, which are very important. They were all about the Capitals.
And I guess you have six more games, and you go back, and then it’s back into the playoffs. And I think you’re going to do fantastically well. Alex, I know you’re going to do great.
Today, we welcome to the White House the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals. And it’s really a special team. And they have a special owner, a man who has been a great success over his lifetime. He’s got — you’ve got your son here with you, too, I believe. Right?
MR. LEONSIS: Yep.
THE PRESIDENT: So thank you very much. And your new head coach, Todd Reirden. Todd, thank you very much, and good luck in the playoffs.
COACH REIRDEN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s going to be starting very soon.
And we welcome, most importantly, the entire Capitals team. They’re winners. They know how to win. And I think you’re going to see that starting in a little while.
You had a truly incredible season, last season, defending against your archrivals and two-time reigning champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. How are they doing, Ted?
MR. LEONSIS: They’ll be in the playoffs.
THE PRESIDENT: They’re never easy, right?
MR. LEONSIS: No. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: They’re never easy, but let’s see how it all works out.
You were led to victory by a very special athlete, a great player, Captain — Team Captain Alex Ovechkin. And where’s Ivanka? She was back there. She’s a friend, and she — she’s a tremendous fan. “Alexander the Great,” they call him, has spent his entire 13-year NHL career with the Washington Capitals. And his hard work and loyalty has paid off last season. He outscored every player in the league. Wow. That’s not bad. Right?
MR. OVECHKIN: Yeah. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: With 64 goals. That’s like Babe Ruth. He hit more than every player in the league. He had, actually, one season, and I think he had more homeruns than every player in the league. Other than that, he wasn’t a very good hitter. He was a special one, too.
Sixty-four goals, a hundred and fourteen points, and was named the playoff MVP. And that was easy. Nobody did more to deserve the Conn Smythe Trophy.
And, Alex, congratulations. And we’re going to all be watching you in a few weeks — in a couple of weeks.
MR. OVECHKIN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: And I have no doubt your team is going to do great.
And we also have Gary Bettman. Where’s Gary? He’s around here someplace. He —
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Back here.
THE PRESIDENT: Where? You mean you didn’t make the team? Okay, but come over here for a sec. The Commissioner of the NHL. And you have done a great job, I have to say. You have done a — I knew you before, right? Before he was a —
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: — I knew you at a different league, and you did — you did a great thing.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: So congratulations, man. Great job.
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Have a great playoff.
So after coming up short the first game, in the first game of the series, the team never quit. It looked like they were in trouble. Defenseman John Carlson — where’s John? Where is he?
PARTICIPANT: Behind you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Is he good? Is he good? He’s pretty good, right? I know he’s good.
John Carlson repeatedly found the back of the net, earning a franchise record as a defenseman with 20 points in the post-season. Wow, that’s pretty good, huh? That’s very good. (Laughter.)
You know, there used to be a man, Bobby Orr. Right? I used to watch him play the Rangers. Bobby Orr.
MR. CARLSON: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: And he was great offensive defenseman, right?
MR. CARLSON: Yeah, he’s a lot better than me. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Including an impressive goal in game four, which was a very important one. And Evgeny — where’s Evgeny? Where are you?
MR. LEONSIS: Right here. Evgeny Kuznetsov.
THE PRESIDENT: Where is he?
MR. KUZNETSOV: Here.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re a young guy. Look at this guy. (Laughter.)
And I think everybody — Kuznetsov — (laughter) — tied a league record with four assists to the single finals game. That’s fantastic. It was really a team. A great team you put together, Ted.
MR. LEONSIS: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So you brought the Stanley Cup home. Thousands of adoring fans greeted you. They were all over the place. And I have a feeling you’re going to be doing it again. You’re champions. You have a champion’s heart. Your owner has been so fantastic. He’s kept this team together. And you pretty much have the same team that you had last year, for the most part.
MR. LEONSIS: Yep.
THE PRESIDENT: And I just want to wish you a lot of luck. In Washington, that’s what they want to talk about. They don’t want to talk about anything else. I can’t get their subject on to anything else. So you got to win quickly, okay? Because we have to get back to work — to the normal work. (Laughter.) But I think you’re going to do really fantastically well.
I want to just say it’s an honor to have the Caps with us. It’s an honor to have the Washington Capitals here. You’re winners, in the highest sense. It’s very tough to win. It’s very tough to go through all those teams. And I really tell you, I think you’re going to have an awfully good chance of doing it again.
We don’t want to put too much pressure. A lot of times you’re better off saying, “Eh, it doesn’t matter.” It takes the pressure off. But you have nothing — you know, you have no pressure because you won. And this makes it easier. Wouldn’t you say that’s true, Gary? Makes it a little bit easier. (Laughter.)
COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: We just want excitement. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: So, Ted, maybe I’d ask you to say a couple of words to your fans out there, because you have a lot of them.
MR. LEONSIS: Thank you. It’s a great honor to be here in the Oval Office. And the team is very, very respectful to the process and what it takes to win. And we hope to make the community in Washington, D.C. proud and try to do it again this year.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.
MR. LEONSIS: And thank you very much for all of your hospitality here in the White House. It’s a true thrill for all of the players and the organization, and a great honor. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have great respect for what you’ve done on this team.
So, what about you, MVP? Do you want to say a couple of words? (Laughter.)
MR. OVECHKIN: Yeah, sure. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Alex Ovechkin.
MR. OVECHKIN: My speech is going to be much easier than it was in the parade. But thank you very much for having us. It’s a huge honor for us to be here and meet you personally.
And, you know, we’re going to try to do it again. We have the same team, experienced team. We’re a good group of guys. And we’re going to try to do it again. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think you’re going to be successful, man.
MR. OVECHKIN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Very proud of you guys. Well, good luck. We’re going to be watching everyone get that same number of goals. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) — we do say Bobby Orr, right?
MR. CARLSON: I’ll try.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re going to do — I think you’re going to do fan- — say a few words. Go ahead. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) They don’t — they never let the defensemen talk, right? Come on.
MR. CARLSON: Thanks for having us. It’s an honor to be here. I think all of us looked very much forward to it. So it’s great. A great honor.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Great job. Thank you very much.
MR. CARLSON: Yeah. Thank you very much.
MR. LEONSIS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: So, good luck, Ted. Take care of yourself. (Applause.) Special guy.
MR. LEONSIS: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody.
3:21 P.M. EDT