3:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, everybody wanted to be here today. (Laughter.) And I know why.
Well, thank you all very much for being here. And before we get started, I want to say a few words to the people of California, great state — especially with those in Napa — Napa has been hit so hard — and Sonoma, as they deal with the tragic loss of life and property to devastating wildfires.
I spoke with Governor Brown last night to let him know that the federal government will stand with the people of California, and we will be there for you in this time of terrible tragedy and need. And I just want to pay my warmest respects. They’re going through a lot.
We also continue to pray for those grieving and wounded after the mass shooting attack in Las Vegas, and we stand in solidarity with those suffering in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. And thank you very much. We have to never forget.
To the many members of Congress who join us here today, we have many, many — you have many fans out here, folks. You know that, right? A lot of fans. Not all from Pennsylvania too, if you can believe it. They are — a lot of fans. (Applause.)
Members of my administration and distinguished guests, please join me in welcoming to the White House the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Applause.)
Not only are the Penguins the first team in the National Hockey League, literally, in nearly 20 years to be repeat champions, you have also captured the Cup in three out of the last nine seasons. That’s pretty amazing because I know the competition is tough. (Applause.) Is it tough? Pretty tough, right? Not for you guys, it’s not so tough. (Laughter.)
Over the last couple of months, the New England Patriots, the Chicago Cubs, and the NCAA champion Clemson Tigers — football — have all visited the White House to celebrate their great victories. It’s been an honor to have them all here.
Now I want to proudly welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins owners. First of all, he’s a friend of mine for a long time. He’s a great, great negotiator. (Laughter.) Ron, how about negotiating some of our horrible trade deals that they’ve made? (Laughter.)
Here’s what I want. I want to get him. I would love to have Ron Burkle. And it’s great to have you, Ron. But I really mean that. If you want to get involved in negotiating NAFTA, I like it. (Laughter.) Because we’re renegotiating NAFTA, Ron.
Of course, he may not like that because maybe he’s on the other side. That’s what is happening. That’s why it’s so hard to redo these trade deals because there’s so many other — you’re not on the other side of NAFTA, Ron, are you?
MR. BURKLE: I am not. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: And one of the all-time greats, and by the way, a really great golfer, too — Mario Lemieux. Super Mario. (Applause.) And he hits that ball a long way.
To General Manager Jim Rutherford and Coach Mike Sullivan, I know you have a really big — it’s an early season matchup tomorrow night against the rival Washington Capitals. Are they tough? Washington Capitals? What do you think? Are they tough, huh?
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: So I want to thank you for coming today. But for us, this is really a truly great group of world champions. That’s what they are; they’re world champions.
We have to start with somebody that I’ve been watching for a long time, because I saw him when he was just about as young as you can get going into the NHL — Sidney Crosby. Where’s Sidney? (Applause.)
This guy — man, can you play. Sidney, do you know how to win or what? Look at him, he’s shy. (Laughter.) You know how to win or what? Great. Great job. What a job you’ve done — 44 goals last season, 89 points in all, and once again the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy. (Applause.)
And Sidney, you’ve built an incredible legacy in Pittsburgh, and congratulations. Keep it going. Fantastic. Before it’s all said and done, you might, frankly, you know, they’re telling me this — has he outdone you yet, Mario? I don’t know. He’s getting close. Isn’t he? (Laughter.)
MR. LEMIEUX: He’s got three rings.
THE PRESIDENT: You might even outdo him. I don’t know. He’s got to be awfully close, right?
MR. LEMIEUX: He’s not at all.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Mario is Mario. And, Sidney, congratulations.
And Sidney is not the only star that shined for the Pens last year. Evgeni Malkin — where’s Evgeni? Where’s Evgeni? (Applause.) Looks like he’s a basketball player. Big guy, strong, tough — served as the other half of the “Two-Headed Monster” — they call it the “Two-Headed Monster” — that scored a combined total of 77 goals. Way to go, fellas. Great. That’s fantastic. Fantastic. (Applause.)
Phil Kessel — where’s Phil? Phil. Come on, Phil. (Applause.) Come on. Come on. Get over here, Phil. (Laughter.) These guys don’t want to be politicians. They shouldn’t be. Don’t be a politician. (Laughter and applause.)
Phil led the team in assists, although I hear his sister, Amanda, may be the best hockey player in the family. Is that possible? (Laughter.) You know what? I doubt it. Okay? But I hear she’s really good.
Matt Murray stewarded 32 wins as goaltender and is the first goalie in league history to win the Stanley Cup championship game in each of his first two years. Where’s Matt? (Applause.) I assume you have very good reflexes, right? Have you had good reflexes from day one?
MR. MURRAY: I would think so, yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) Yeah. Hey, you better have, right? Way to go, Matt. We expect big things again this year out of Matt, as he will be taking on an even greater role this season between the pipes.
Sheary, Jake Guentzel — where’s Jake and Conor? Where are they? Come here. Hello. Way to go, fellas. What a group. And Justin, Justin Schultz also had really big years as some of the young upcoming stars of this team. It’s got a team — it’s tremendous future. That’s what I’m hearing.
Despite being sidelined to injury, Kris Letang used his experience to help younger players. (Applause.) Where’s Kris? Where is Kris? Boy, you look pretty young to me, Kris. What do you mean, younger players? I mean, they get younger than you? You look fabulous. (Laughter.)
Very handsome group of people. In fact, I don’t like actually — (laughter) — I don’t like standing in front of them. (Laughter.) First thing you know, we always like unattractive teams, right? (Laughter.) And devised strategies that spurred the Pens on to a really incredible victory.
I am pleased to report that the Tanger — right — Tanger is healthy and back on the ice this season, where he belongs. It’s going to be a great season for you. (Applause.)
Yet, many of the players really might agree that the biggest MVPs were your incredible, loyal fans. (Applause.) The Pens’ faithful packed the arenas for every single game, cheering Pittsburgh’s “Boys of Winter” all the way. Great. Great fans. Great state. Great place. In fact, every one of the Penguins’ home games for the past 10 straight years has been very much, to Ron Burkle’s happiness, sold out. Right, Ron? Sold out. (Applause.)
So while you’re dominant on the ice, the heart of the organization and its commitment to Pittsburgh shines just as brightly off the ice.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation supports a number of great causes serving young people. Over a million dollars in grants were awarded to local charities last season. The annual food drive distributes thousands and thousands of pounds of food and tens of thousands of dollars to local community food banks. Since 2010, the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation has also worked with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine to combat concussions in young athletes.
Just last week, the Pens pledged two donations of $25,000 each toward relief efforts in Puerto Rico in a support of the victims and the first responders of the terrible attack in Las Vegas. They have worked so hard — the police, the first responders — for everything, whether it was in Texas or in Florida, or Louisiana, or Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or that horrible, horrible situation caused by a very demented, sick person in Las Vegas. The police, every one of them — first responders — they’ve been incredible. They’ve been absolutely incredible. So we should give them a hand, okay? (Applause.)
Just as much as your five Stanley Cup wins, your generosity has shown the true character of this incredible organization. You are true, true champions and incredible patriots.
Now with hockey season again underway, I know you’re ready to make yet another run at the Cup. The NHL has not seen a three-peat in a generation, but I know you are ready for the challenge. I’m going to be watching so closely because — do you think you’re going to be back here next year? I think so. Right? (Applause.) I have a feeling; I’ve been watching them.
I go to those Ranger games, and you do a lot of bad damage to our Ranger team, don’t you? (Laughter.) Boy, oh boy. You do damage, but that’s the way you want to do it. It’s called winning. Right, Sidney? Called winning. (Laughter.) I know the Capitals will be looking for payback tomorrow night, so we will let you get back to practice.
I just, again, want to congratulate this incredible franchise on its so many victories. You embody the values of dedication, discipline, and hard work. To every young American watching today, we encourage you to always strive to be your best, to do your best, and to give your all.
We wish all the best of luck this season. You’re going to have a great season. The coach is telling me your team is going to be better than ever. So let’s go Pens.
you all. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. Fantastic. Thank you very much. Congratulations. (Applause.)
3:34 P.M. EDT