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Politics not on agenda as Los Angeles Kings meet President Obama

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When the Boston Bruins visited the White House last year to be honored for capturing the Stanley Cup, goaltender Tim Thomas made skipping out on President Obama a political statement. Calling himself a "free citizen," the U.S.-born Conn Smythe Trophy winner created quite the distraction.

When Obama honored the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, politics couldn't have been further away. Aside from perhaps a joke or two here and there.

"After careful consideration, I've decided not to visit the White House today for political reasons," left wing Dustin Penner wrote on Twitter, taking a jab at Thomas. "LOL JK I'm not an idiot! Free trip? I'm in!"

It was the first time a U.S. captain visited the White House with the reigning Cup champions, and Dustin Brown presented Obama with a No. 44 "Obama" jersey following a brief ceremony. When White House staffer Sam Kass asked children during a question-and-answer session who was making his or her first trip there, Brown drew laughs by raising his hand.

Goaltender Jonathan Quick, who's likely to be the U.S. starter at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, took time out to snap photos of presidential paintings. Tweeting a photo of Bill Clinton is a far cry from Thomas posting a message on his Facebook page about the federal government growing out of control.

Obama, who hasn't attended a Washington Capitals game at Verizon Center in four-plus years in office, spent his time at the lectern doing just about everything but singing Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." when addressing the Kings and Major League Soccer champion Galaxy.

"I'm a little resentful that L.A. seems to be getting all these championships," said Obama, who calls Chicago home. "I'm going to be a good sport. It was pointed out that [the Kings] beat my Blackhawks last night. I will also say that given this season how rare it is to beat the Blackhawks, I want to congratulate them for that."

It might have gotten political behind the scenes, as Kings coach Darryl Sutter told Los Angeles reporters this week that he would bring up the Keystone Pipeline with Obama. In front of the cameras, the fact that Sutter spent two seasons as a Blackhawks assistant and two more as a head coach was not lost on the president.

In running down the Kings' improbable run to the Cup, Obama praised Brown and Quick, noting that they became the first No. 8 seed in North American professional sports to win a championship.

"With playoff MVP Jonathan Quick playing lights out in goal, these guys just kept winning game after game after game," Obama said. "America found out that Southern California actually has some pretty intense hockey playing."

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