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‘You get goose bumps walking in’: Biden honors Golden Knights

Updated November 13, 2023 - 2:22 pm

WASHINGTON — Mark Stone said he has never been more nervous in his life.

Standing behind a podium bearing the crest of the President of the United States, between portraits of George and Martha Washington, Stone was given the opportunity to speak in the White House’s East Room as part of the Golden Knights’ visit Monday to commemorate their Stanley Cup championship.

The only people watching were his teammates, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and anyone else around the globe that tuned in.

“It’s a lot easier playing hockey in front of 20,000 than this,” Stone said. “I can confirm that.”

The Knights captain, as he does so often on the ice, worked through the situation with aplomb. He even delivered a joke at the expense of Biden’s home state — calling Las Vegas the “entertainment capital of the world. I say that with all due respect to Delaware, Mr. President” — as part of a special ceremony for the organization.

“It exceeded expectations,” Stone said outside the famous West Wing. “You get goose bumps walking in. Words can’t really describe it for me.”

The Knights visited the White House as only they could.

They entered the East Room with Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” blasting. They exited to Queen’s “We Are The Champions.”

In between, Biden and Stone walked in to “Hail to the Chief” before each delivered remarks about the Knights’ incredible six-year transformation from expansion franchise to Stanley Cup champions.

Other attendees included Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who joined Biden for a photo with the team, as well as Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev. Family members of late Nevada Sen. Harry Reid were also present.

The Knights also brought other special guests. Left wing Reilly Smith got the day off from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice to join his former teammates. Former director of sports performance and head athletic trainer Jay Mellette joined the group. Silver Knights coach Ryan Craig, an assistant with the big club last season, was also there.

“It’s nice to have some familiar faces around,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They should be part of it.”

Biden, with the Stanley Cup on a table to his right, spoke for about seven minutes before ceding the lectern to Stone. He even shook Stone’s hand halfway through his comments after describing the captain’s recovery from two back surgeries.

“Mark’s my kind of guy,” Biden said. “I had a coach (Delaware football coach Tubby Raymond) who used to always say, ‘You get knocked down, just get up.’ This guy gets up and goes, man.”

The Knights presented Biden with gifts when the speeches were over.

The 46th president received a gold Knights jersey with “Biden” on the nameplate and the number 46. Biden was also given a gold stick with the words “Stanley Cup champions Vegas Golden Knights” and the team’s logo on one side of the shaft and “Biden #46” on the other. He joked “this thing weighs about 800 pounds.”

The event, after a few photos, ended soon after. The Knights then proceeded to get right back to work.

They practiced Monday afternoon at the Washington Capitals’ facility in Arlington, Virginia, because he had Saturday and Sunday off.

The Knights know what their expectations are. Stone closed his speech by saying, “We’re looking forward to trying to get back here next November.”

“Obviously, it takes a lot to be able to do that in front of an audience like that, especially in a moment like that,” defenseman Zach Whitecloud said. “Stoney’s got a knack for that sort of thing and did a great job.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on X.

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