President Donald Trump honored the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, using the occasion to announce an envoy to Turkey, mention the economy and an agriculture deal with China and laugh off the possibility of impeachment.
For the Blues, it was more of a last chance to celebrate the first title in franchise history than a political statement. Like previous NHL champions, they decided to keep with the long-held tradition of visiting the president at the White House amid teams from the NBA and other leagues either declining or not receiving an invitation or being disinvited by Trump.
St. Louis has a heavy concentration of Canadians and just one American still on the roster from the group that beat the Boston Bruins in the Cup Final. Every returning player from the Cup champions took the tour, met with Trump and was present for the ceremony in the Rose Garden.
Alternate captain Alex Steen said quote - “No matter what we do, we do it as a group. I think that’s how we won. We’re a very tight-knit group.”
Trump veered off into talk about bringing soldiers home from overseas and the stock market and revealed Vice President Mike Pence was traveling to Turkey to try to reach a ceasefire deal. When he circled back to the Blues, he went through their improbable run from last place in the league to champions with nods to Steen, owner Tom Stillman, captain Alex Pietrangelo, goaltender Jordan Binnington, forward Jaden Schwartz — who he called “Jason” — and playoff MVP Ryan O’Reilly.
Trump even mentioned the Blues adopting Laura Branigan’s 1982 hit “Gloria” as their victory song, and the U.S. Marine Band played the team into the ceremony with that tune. Young fan Laila Anderson, who was the team’s inspiration while she fought a rare auto-immune disease, got her own mention.
Stillman, who presented Trump with a No. 45 Blues jersey called it a “light-hearted, fun kind of celebration.” He echoed Steen’s sentiments about why the entire team showed up — a departure from when goaltender Braden Holtby and forward Brett Connolly skipped the 2018 champion Washington Capitals’ visit in March in support of teammate Devante Smith-Pelly.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; Pence’s wife, Karen; and Republican Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley of Missouri were among those in attendance for the half-hour ceremony.