Shouldn't Dan Bylsma have run out of surreal moments by now? The guy went from the minor leagues to coach of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the span of 49 games. He orchestrated miraculous rallies, outcoached seasoned foes and revealed to the world the power of the lucky game-day burrito.
Yet there he was yesterday, on the red carpet of the NHL Awards in Las Vegas with a perilously low cell phone battery charge, when surrealism struck again: His cell rang with a call from the White House.
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review picks up the tale as President Barack Obama phoned his congratulations to Bylsma and the Penguins:
"I was scared big-time," Bylsma said. "I didn't know he was calling. My phone charger is broken, and I was down to my last bar. I was scared it was going to go out. ...In the two seconds that I'm waiting to hear from him, I'm wondering, 'Does the President call back?'"
Newsweek had the official White House version of the phone exchange, as Obama phoned both Bylsma and Coach Phil Jackson of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers:
Yesterday afternoon, President Obama called Dan Bylsma, head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, to congratulate the team on a great year and on winning the Stanley Cup. The President joked that, coupled with the Steelers' Super Bowl win, Pittsburgh fans might be "getting spoiled" and said he hoped the team will come to the White House.
Rossi reported that Bylsma was honored and overwhelmed:
"It was a brief conversation. He congratulated us. He lamented that his team, Chicago, didn't have a chance to play us. And he talked about Pittsburgh being the 'City of Champions,'" Bylsma said of Obama, who also invited the Penguins to the White House in the fall. "It's unique. To recognize that voice, to know it's the President talking to you. It's one of those shake-your-head moments, and I've had a few in the past six days."
Hey, since when are the Chicago Blackhawks "Obama's team," other than through some geographic loyalty to the Windy City? He's yet to show any allegiance (or interest in) hockey, during the campaign and in the Oval Office. (Outside of photo ops; he can't be a Blackhawks fan with a Detroit Red Wings jersey, right?) The President's been to more burger joints in the DC area than Washington Capitals games since the inauguration. (Note: He may have mentioned the Caps to Bylsma, too.)
Hopefully, his first White House audience with an NHL team will ignite his puckhead passion. America demands a President who will proudly wear a playoff beard during the Stanley Cup tournament. C'mon, Barack, you're an agent of change; imagine how the "Hockey-Fan-in-Chief" will play north of the border and in Eastern Europe?