Red Wings Bring Cup to White House
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton welcomed the Detroit Red Wings to the White House on Thursday to celebrate their second straight year as Stanley Cup champions, joking they had been back often enough that he should clear an annual day for them.
``This is becoming such a regular thing. ... We should just have Michigan Day at the White House,″ Clinton said, standing to the left of the silver Stanley Cup in the East Room.
The Red Wings swept the Washington Capitols in four games for their second championship in 1998. Team captain Steve Yzerman was named most valuable player.
Clinton said of Yzerman, ``when the chips are down, you always made the plays. That’s something every leader needs to do, and you have done that.″
Clinton especially acknowledged former defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and former team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov, both in wheel chairs, bringing Mnatsakanov nearly to tears. They have been recovering for the past 19 months from disabling injuries suffered in a limousine accident.
Yzerman joked with Clinton that during the playoff games, ``I’m sure you were in your hotel room with your Red Wings jersey on.″
Last year, Yzerman gave Clinton a home Red Wings jersey and this year he added to his collection by giving him an away-game jersey.
Coach Scotty Bowman presented Clinton with a miniature replica of the Stanley Cup. ``You know, Mr. President, how difficult it is to win the first one, and how challenging it is to repeat a second time,″ Bowman said as Clinton laughed.
Before meeting with the president, players joked about their two visits to the White House in as many years.
``We’re on a first name basis with everyone here,″ said defenseman Larry Murphy.
``We’ll find out if they’ve redecorated,″ Yzerman added.
But one star player, center Sergei Federov, was visiting the White House for the first time, having missed last year’s visit because he had no new contract.
``It’s very new to me. I’m very excited,″ Federov said.
Konstantinov and Mnatsakanov traveled on the Red Wings’ plane with their teammates for the first time since the accident.
Konstantinov’s wife, Irina, said he was aware during the day that he was meeting with the president, and with some prompting, he remembered last year’s ceremony.
``He’s much more aware this year,″ she said. ``He’s enjoying it. He’s having a ball.″
Last year, Konstantinov stole the show as he gave President Clinton a thumbs-up while sitting back in his wheelchair and Clinton returned the sign.