The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020 but couldn’t visit the White House to celebrate because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team then repeated as champions last year.
“This team joined rare company,” President Joe Biden said. “One of only eight teams over the last century to win two Stanley Cups in a row.”
He also noted the importance of 2021’s win, and celebration with fans, after the team’s 2020 win in the “bubble.”
“This past season, you got to deliver something truly special: hosting the Cup in your — on your home ice in front of the Tampa faithful,” Biden said. “And don’t underestimate what that feeling meant to so many fans, especially kids, and lifelong memories you created for countless families.”
Team Captain Steven Stamkos called Monday’s visit with the president a historic moment for the team.
“We got to spend some quality time with him in the Oval Office as well and hear some stories,” Stamkos said. “It’s just been something that you’re going to remember for a long time.
Biden joked with Stamkos during the Lightning’s visit, congratulating the captain on 14 seasons with the team.
“The victory capped off an incredible run by one of the most well-rounded teams in recent memory, with outstanding players at every level, led by your captain, the Lightning stalwart of 14 seasons – Steve, 14 seasons? You’re gettin’ old man,” Biden said. “I gotta get some advice from Steve about this.”
Despite winning the Stanley Cup three times now, Monday was the first time the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise visited the White House. The NHL lockout kept the team away in 2004 after their first championship, and the COVID pandemic prevented a visit last year.
“We’ve earned a lot of our success the last couple years by just believing in one another and sticking together, so you get rewarded with opportunities like this,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said.
McDonagh, an alternate captain for the Lightning, believes the next step is winning the cup again and punching a ticket back to the White House.
“We’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs and we have an opportunity there to do it again,” he said.
During Monday’s visit, the Lightning told President Biden if they win the championship again this year, he’s invited to celebrate with the team in Tampa.
“You’re invited, Mr. President, for one of — for one of our one-of-a-kind championship boat parades, and they are fun,” team owner Jeffrey Vinik said. “They’re fun to do.”
The Lightning’s visit to the White House marks the second visit by a Tampa Bay team to Washington in recent years. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited with President Biden last summer to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl LV win.
“At the risk of stating the obvious here, it’s a pretty good time to be a sports fan in Tampa,” the president said Monday. “I don’t know what the hell you have in the water down there.”
The Bolts will close out the regular season this week with games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders. Stanley Cup playoffs begin in May.