WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Playing ice hockey watched by thousands of rabid fans is no problem for Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone but speaking in front of United States President Joe Biden proved to be a whole other matter on Monday.
The Winnipeg-born winger appeared in the White House East Room with his team for a reception honouring their Stanley Cup triumph this year and said he and his team mates grew up dreaming of lifting the National Hockey League’s top prize.
“We all come here in awe of this beautiful place and have such respect for you and the office that you hold,” said Stone, who addressed Biden appearing to be overcome by nerves before composing himself to wild applause from the assembled guests.
“It’s a lot easier playing hockey in front of 20,000 than this – can confirm that,” he added.
The Golden Knights won the best-of-seven championship series 4-1 against the Florida Panthers in June, triggering celebrations along the famed Vegas Strip.
They are the second Las Vegas-based team to swing by the White House so far this year, after the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) Aces visited in honour of their 2022 championship win.
The Aces retained that title last month, building on Las Vegas’ reputation as a sports town on the rise.
“It’s an honour to speak on behalf of not only my team mates but the entire organisation and the city of Las Vegas – of course, an amazing city, the entertainment capital of the world,” said Stone.
“Say that with all due respect to Delaware, Mr. President,” he added, poking a bit of fun at Biden’s much sleepier home state.
The team gave Biden a jersey and golden hockey stick at the end of the presentation.
“We’re looking forward to trying to get back here,” said Stone. “This has exceeded all expectations.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington, writing by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)