The Los Angeles Kings finally made their long delayed and long awaited
appearance at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
LOS ANGELES, CA -- One of the casualties of the NHL lockout was the
annual trip by the Stanley Cup champions to Washington, D.C. to be
honored by U.S. President Barack Obama.
It was to be the Los Angeles Kings turn to stand on the podium in
October prior to a scheduled game against the Washington Capitals, but
the labor impasse scuttled those plans with no rescheduled date in
When the big boys settled their differences, the reconstituted
schedule did not allow for any Eastern Conference games for the champs
and with most weeks containing four scheduled games, there was
uncertainly of when the unforgiving docket would allow the team to
visit the Nation's Capital.
The Los Angeles schedule contained two consecutive days off between
games in Chicago and St. Louis in late March that gave the franchise a
window of opportunity to put a final jewel on the championship crown.
The word came down last week confirming the White House visit and
mobilization commenced to get the Kings their spot on the podium aside
The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for not only the team,
but for certain media members who covered the team over the past
decade. Included in the release was information for media to apply for
credentials, so I figured, "it won't ever happen, but let's give it a
It's funny how those shots in the dark work sometimes.
My request was put in last Thursday and there was no communication all
weekend, so I thought my odds were reduced to slim and none with slim
just leaving town. Around noon PT on Monday, I was hustling some trade
deadline intelligence when an unrecognizable email address hit my
All those trade rumors had finally paid off, big time.
In a career that I'm grateful for every day, the capper was to read
that I had an RSVP confirmation to stroll into the White House the
next day to witness a little part of Los Angeles sports history. Not
only were the Kings to be honored, but so were the back-to-back MLS
champions Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Presidential Ceremony was to be followed by a kids' press
conference with players from both squads (the Kings were repped by
captain Dustin Brown, defenseman Rob Scuderi and goalie Jonathan
Quick) answering questions in connection with the Let's Move
initiative championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. All that remained
was to find a way to get 3000 miles east in the next 24 hours with no
concrete plans in place.
Thank goodness for credit cards that give you miles for qualified
purchases, a flight that would likely have cost close to $1,000 was
priced at $80.
Within the hour, the flight was booked, hotel and car was reserved and
my trek to The White House was set.
The redeye flight was tough, even for those who sleep well on planes
like me. The wheels of the Boeing 737 set down at Dulles International
Airport and we hit the streets at 7AM, though my body clock told me it
was still the middle of the night. Fortunately, the good folks at the
Sheraton graciously allowed a far-too-early check-in and we got a
little shuteye, but still not enough as the excitement of covering
such a prestigious event grew.
The White House is an impressive site sitting recessed off the road at
the famous 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and it's actually housed in a
national park called President's Park. You'd think the home of the
most powerful man in the world would have an elaborate security system
to grant access to any looking to get on the ground.
I simply pressed a button at the wrought iron press entrance and
waited for a guard who looked no older than the average NHL rookie
buzzed me on to the grounds. The security clearance was a small room
that looked more like a TSA checkpoint at Burbank Airport than the
Getting through the rudimentary security setup, we walked briskly past
the network TV booths where reporters file their nightly stories from
the White House lawn as a White House staffer led us to the James
Brady Briefing Room as a holding area.
If you've seen a White House briefing you're familiar with the podium
and stage in the room. Sitting in those seats where the top reporters
in the news business toil made the moment for me very real, and for
the first time that I can recall, very intimidating.
While waiting for the event call, we schmoozed with a number of local
hockey scribes who make the White House visit on annual rite of
passage and came to the realization that due to the lack of a Kings
game attached to the event, I was the only independent member of the
Los Angeles media in attendance. The cramped quarters of the White
House press room makes the facility at Staples Center look like the
Taj Mahal; tiny desks, coats hung on closets, a constant reminder that
the President really works in a building that is far more of a museum
than an office complex.
It's really the ultimate in telecommuting.
After 45 minutes of cooling our heels, the call came to proceed. Some
50 media members rolled up a long staircase, entered the White House
while a military band played and walked through the door of a packed
Palm Room. The Stanley Cup was staged on one side with the MLS Cup on
the other (doesn't seem fair it got equal billing) as first the Kings,
then the Galaxy manned the platform dressed as if they were ready to
take their senior class picture.
President Obama entered with coaches Darryl Sutter and Bruce Arena and
regardless of your politics, the 44th President of the United States
was by far the biggest star in the room. Though his five years in
office has taken its toll on his youthful looks, his charisma could be
felt in the far reaches of the room that was our vantage point.
While reading from a script to recant the Kings championship run,
President Obama didn't need his notes to chirp the Kings about their
previous night's win over his hometown Chicago Blackhawks.
When the obligatory Kings "OBAMA 44" jersey was presented by captain
Brown, Obama exclaimed, "that toothless smile, this is what a hockey
player should look like."
Brown, who usually takes things in stride, admitted to us, "that was
After a few more congratulatory comments from the Commander-in-Chief,
he left the room and directly to motorcade to an appointment off the
grounds leaving every member of the Kings with a memory they'll always