Pittsburgh Penguins Find Some Friends in Washington

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 11, 2009

The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the nation's capital, it was on very different terms. Nearly four months ago in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Penguins rocked the hometown Washington Capitals, 6-2, to win the series and take a crucial step en route to the team's third Stanley Cup championship.

The Penguins returned to Washington on Thursday, where they hosted a youth clinic at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena before attending a White House ceremony in their honor with President Obama. But during the afternoon skate, several of the youths reminded the Penguins where their loyalties lie.

"There's a lot of Capitals fans out there," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "They said I was their second favorite. . . . For me personally, I didn't think about [the rivalry] a whole lot coming back. I wanted to think about the White House and coming here. It was one of those things that was great for us, but we've moved on to just enjoying this experience and getting ready for the new season."

About three dozen children from the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club and Kids on Ice -- both from the District -- and Hockey in the Hood from Pittsburgh joined Crosby, Bill Guerin, Marc-André Fleury, Brooks Orpik and Jordan Staal for an hour-long session. The visit was part of the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone project.

"It was pretty cool to skate with the Penguins," said Demia Lee, 12, of Brandywine. "I'm a Caps fan. I don't cheer for them, but they were really nice and funny. It's possible I might root for the Penguins now when they're not playing the Capitals because they were so nice."

The young players took part in skating and shooting exercises, including breakaway drills where they were able to receive passes from Pittsburgh forwards Crosby, Guerin and Staal.

"Not many kids get to skate with the Stanley Cup winners. It's an honor to skate with them," said Willie Bennett, 14, of Chesapeake, Md. "Alex Ovechkin is still my favorite player, though."

After the practice the Penguins headed downtown, where they took a tour of the White House and met with Obama.

Crosby and Coach Dan Bylsma presented the president with a personalized No. 44 Penguins jersey. Obama picked the Stanley Cup up and held it for a team photo.

"It's been a long time since Chicago won anything and I'm not happy about it," Obama said. "But I have a special place in my heart for Pittsburgh. So if it can't be the Blackhawks, the Penguins are a great choice."

Capitals Notes: Coach Bruce Boudreau called off the rookie camp scrimmage, telling reporters he wants the players to be rested for Friday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers' rookies in Voorhees, N.J. . . . Boudreau hinted that Capitals Web producer Brett Leonhardt might suit up as a backup goalie for the annual scrimmage.

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