PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Can we keep the politics out of hockey, a stern but calm Penguins coach Mike Sullivan seemed to say as he explained that accepting the White House invitation to honor the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship was not a political act.
“We haven’t taken any stance,” said Sullivan. “The Penguins, as an organization, and our players have chosen not to use this platform, not to take a stance, and so there appears to be a perception that we have, and it’s wrong.”
As back-to-back Stanley Cup winners, the Pens accepted President Obama’s invitation last year just as they have President Trump’s.
Sullivan was especially critical of those attacking Pens’ captain Sidney Crosby.
“People seem to think that Sid needs to bear this burden of responsibility is unfair,” he said. “This guy does nothing but come to the rink, help the Penguins win championships, and be a good person every day.”
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One person who see politics is Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto who says, given the President’s comments on NFL football players, the timing isn’t right for him to join the hockey team at the White House.
But in a rare split with the mayor, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he wanted to go but is required to present the budget to County Council on that day.
“Regardless of the politics, it’s an honor for the Penguins,” noted Fitzgerald. “It’s a ceremonial service. We’re not going down there to discuss the budget or health care or immigration or other things. It’s really to just recognize the great achievement that the Pittsburgh Penguins did.”
And Sullivan says the team’s focus is not politics, but winning games.
“We want to play hockey. Our players want to play hockey. That’s what we want to do. That’s what we love to do,” said Sullivan.