Blackhawks White House visit 'icing on the cake'

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Blackhawks White House visit 'icing on the cake'

Friday, March 11, 2011
Posted 6:47 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. Patrick Kane was taking in the whole White House experience, from the tour to the kids street hockey game to President Barack Obamas speech.

WATCH: President Obama's speech

I was happy with his speech. I got mentioned three times in his speech, Kane said laughing, as he played hockey with kids on the south lawn. I dont know who was counting but somebody told me.

The Chicago Blackhawks enjoyed their final congratulatory moment of their Stanley Cup season when they visited the White House on a chilly Friday afternoon. The Blackhawks took a tour of the White House before being honored in front of a few hundred guests and media on the south lawn.

It was really cool, really elegant, Kane said of the White House. It goes back a long while obviously. I guess the first (president) to live there was (John) Adams. It was pretty cool to be part of that history, to walk through that house.

Introductions between Obama and players apparently yielded a few funny moments.

Everyone was introducing themselves, first and last name, and Hjalmarsson just said, Im Nick, Kane said. So it was funny to hear that.

While the Blackhawks who werent part of the Cup team were part of the lawn audience, the Cup members including visiting Brent Sopel and Cristobal Huet -- stood behind Obama during the festivities.

Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz called the visit the icing on the cake.

Obama gave about a six-minute speech congratulating his home-town Blackhawks championship and recognizing team ownership and specific players namely Jonathan Toews great work, Duncan Keiths postseason tooth loss and Kanes playoff mullet I thought it was pretty sharp.

Obama received a Blackhawks sweater and also got a chance to try on the Blackhawks championship ring that's what you call some bling, right there, Obama said.

We have a proud tradition in Chicago of believing that no matter how long it takes, how much we have to endure its only a matter of time before our team finally wins it all, Obama said to laughs. The waiting builds character. We have a lot of character.

During the playoffs, even the Michael Jordan statue had a Blackhawks uniform on. And when the Hawks visited Wrigley Field during the Crosstown Classic, they did something even tougher than winning the Cup -- they got 40,000 Sox fans and Cubs fans to stand up and cheer at the same team, Obama said. (Thats) never happened before.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville enjoyed meeting Obama.

Hes real genuine, a regular guy with a great attitude, he said. He was pretty excited. I had the pleasure to speak with him after we won the championship and he was excited then. One of the most amazing things was how excited the city was, and that was across the board. He was excited about it then and today as well.

The Blackhawks have enjoyed a lot of celebrations for that Cup victory, the most prestigious coming on Friday. While they keep moving forward trying to make the playoffs again this season, they enjoyed one last look at the past, presidential style.

He was very eloquent, very kind about the Blackhawks, team president John McDonough said of Obama. He really did his homework. He really gave Patrick Kane a lot of love.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”