Obama, the Blackhawks and The Cup: A Flashback

Today, Chicago's own Barack Obama was ceremonially sworn in to serve a second term as president of the United States. Just a couple of days earlier, the Chicago Blackhawks' hockey season -- delayed from its scheduled October start by a contract dispute between National Hockey League owners and players -- finally got under way.

To most people, there won't be an obvious connection between these two events. But Obama and the Blackhawks are connected in a very significant way for me. On March 11, 2011, I had the pleasure of going to the White House to attend the ceremony in which the president (and first lady Michelle Obama) honored the team for its NHL championship the season before.

The event was one of the last before I ended a 30-year career covering politics in Washington, D.C., for Congressional Quarterly and lit out for Chicago, where I've spent the past year and a half working to build a new journalism career around my passion for food and drink.

And as a lifelong sports and politics junkie, my afternoon with the president, the Blackhawks and the Stanley Cup ranks among my favorite events. Ever.

Here's how this came about. My wife, who grew up in the Chicago area, and I began in December 2010 to mull relocating to the city (which I'd regarded for many years as my second hometown). I started networking almost immediately, and through some connections in the political community here, I learned that there was going to be a lawyers vs. celebrities charity hockey game just after Christmas in which the lineup included Mike Quigley, a Democratic congressman from Chicago's North Side.

I attended the game, and got to meet Quigley. Then, when I found out he was playing in a congressional charity hockey game, this time at D.C.'s Verizon Center in March 2011, I arranged an interview and wrote a preview story for one of my company's publications. And as a result of that, I was able to get credentialed for the Blackhawks event at the White House.

The event, on the South Lawn of the White House, featured the president speaking about the Blackhawks' triumph with the team standing behind him and the Stanley Cup on display to his left. The team presented him with a jersey bearing his name and the number 44 -- Obama is the 44th president of the United States -- and a miniature replica of the Cup. Michelle Obama also took a turn at the podium to promote the Let's Move childhood fitness and anti-obesity program that she developed.

It's a little short of two years later. The Blackhawks have quickly raised their fans' hopes that this short season could be a special one by winning their first two games on the road at Los Angeles and Phoenix. Should they win the championship this year, or in either of the next two seasons, they'll again be greeted at the White House by President Obama.

As for me, I am now living in the Lakeview section of Chicago, in the 5th Congressional District represented by ... Mike Quigley. And congressman, please be alerted that if there ever is another Blackhawks ceremony at White House, I'll be contacting you to ask if you can again assist me in getting credentialed.

Last time, when your staff was able to get me in, it was because I was a D.C. political reporter covering a congressman's passion for hockey.

Next time, it will be constituent service.

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