March 13, 2010
The closest United States President Barack Obama has gotten to hockey was when he welcomed the Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House last September to congratulate them on winning the Stanley Cup. A big sports fan, since being elected into office Obama's done his NCAA basketball tournament bracket on ESPN, thrown out the first pitch at the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in St. Louis, partnered his "United We Serve" program with the National Football League's "Play 60" initiative for a Super Bowl commercial, and most recently been in attendance at the Verizon Center for basketball games featuring Georgetown University and the Washington Wizards.
With an open invitation from Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, Obama has yet to see his local hockey team in person. That has some Caps fans frustrated and feeling left out. But a new fan campaign might bring hope that the President will soon "Rock the Red" at Verizon Center.
The idea behind "Barack the Red" came from by Ian Oland, creator of the Russian Machine Never Breaks blog. As he told Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post's D.C. Sports Bog, Oland saw the love Obama was showing other sports and felt the President should throw his some support hockey's way:
"He's kind of treated hockey like the girl you don't want to go to the prom with; you're trying to still be nice while avoiding her," Oland explained. "This is the most exciting hockey team I've ever seen in my life. It just seems like this should happen. It just seems natural. Obama loves sports, he loves being on ESPN, he makes his bracket picks, he throws a football around in the White House. He seems to love every sport except hockey. That just isn't cool."
The "Barack the Red" campaign did reach the White House on Friday, but not as far as President Obama. After Press Secretary Robert Gibbs paid up his end of a bet with Dmitri Soudas, spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, over the Olympic gold-medal game (donning a red Team Canada jersey with a No. 39 - in honor of Ryan Miller(notes)), a reporter asked Gibbs if he had seen the online campaign. He couldn't say if Obama would attend this season, but with the Capitals currently the only winning sports team in D.C. and with a potential Stanley Cup run about to begin in a month's time, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a certain VIP fan sporting a red "44" jersey inside Leonsis' box at Verizon Center this spring.