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Graney: Knights’ day at White House had bipartisan feel

WASHINGTON — It lasted 10 to 15 minutes, one of the most bipartisan gatherings you will find in this town.

Especially nowadays.

The White House and President Joe Biden hosted the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights on Monday, celebrating the team’s championship five months to the day of lifting its silver trophy.

And, no, William Karlsson didn’t rip off his shirt and grab a mic.

You’re probably not guzzling champagne out of the Cup in the East Room or Oval Office. Although that might have made the day even better.

‘No politics’

It was a classy and memorable ceremony, Biden and Knights captain Mark Stone offering remarks. The president met with the team beforehand, at which time hockey was the central theme of conversation.

Stone was even asked by a reporter afterward if Biden had addressed gun reform with the team, given the president mentioned the October 1 mass shooting in his speech.

“No politics,” Stone said. “I think he was pretty excited to see the Stanley Cup and just talk about our championship. We got to ask some questions about him, but he was pretty excited, I think, to ask some questions about us.”

As it should have been.

Politics and sports have mixed forever. There is no getting around it. Taking a knee during the national anthem. A raising of fists at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Throwing a gold medal into the Ohio River. On and on.

But there wasn’t much hint of such a clash Monday, save Biden joking that he isn’t paying attention to any polling data.

The most disappointing part was the absence of Knights owner and West Point graduate Bill Foley, who, according to a team spokesman, had a scheduling conflict after returning from Europe. His son, Robert, the team’s chief business officer, represented the family.

It was a nice blend of Nevada and D.C., the song “Viva Las Vegas,” opening the ceremony. Most all the talk was about hockey and sports with a few jokes thrown in.

The Knights only have three American-born players, but you wouldn’t have known it from listening to their teammates. Everyone seemed taken aback by the honor, by the opportunity, by the chance to experience something so historic for the franchise.

“We hope to be able to do it again, but you never know,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Maybe a once in a lifetime. And it’s a pretty cool experience to be around such important and powerful people and just the building itself.

“I actually got emotional because I thought (Stone) spoke so well, too. That was impressive. I was impressed he could be passionate but still funny.”

He was. Stone wears it on his sleeve. I mean, you’ve seen his goal celebrations, right?

He had a nice one-liner to Biden, apologizing to the president that his home state of Delaware wasn’t the Entertainment Capital of the World like Las Vegas. Got some well-earned laughs.

“The most nervous I have ever been,” Stone said.

A sweater and stick

Southern Nevada has also become the Sports Capital of the World. And in doing so, it has delivered championships to its doorstep. Biden reminded the packed room about this, recalling that Vice President Kamala Harris hosted the two-time WNBA champion Aces in August.

“Look, just six years ago, the idea of a championship team playing on ice in the Vegas desert — I mean, think about this,” Biden said. “Who would’ve — who would’ve thunk of it, as they say. It seemed like a pipe dream, but (Bill Foley) had faith — predicting a playoff run in three years and a Stanley Cup in six …

“You’re Vegas born; you’re Vegas strong.”

And in the end, Stone and president of hockey operations George McPhee presented Biden with a jersey and gold hockey stick. He lifted it up. Smiles all around.

Hey, not bad for 10 to 15 minutes in this town.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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