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Gopher hockey player Kelly Stephens greets President George W. Bush at the White House.

Kelly Stephens, a senior co-captain on the 2004-05 women's hockey team, greets President Bush at the White House on July 12. Stephens presented Bush with a Gopher hockey jersey.

Mighty and golden

Gopher women's hockey team honored again at White House

By Rick Moore

Published on July 13, 2005

The University of Minnesota women's hockey team, which won its second straight Frozen Four championship in March, was honored yesterday in a ceremony with President George W. Bush at the White House.

The Gophers were among 15 NCAA championship teams--mostly from the winter and spring sports seasons--to make the trip to Washington. They arrived at the White House at 8:15 a.m. and received a tour of the East Wing before greeting the President and having a team picture taken with him.

Bush then spoke to all 15 teams in a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, addressing each individually with a sentence or two. "Two of the teams here are celebrating a championship for the second year in a row," he said. "...The Gophers beat Harvard last year to come to the White House; they beat Harvard this year to come to the White House. Congratulations to the mighty Gophers of Minnesota."

As was the case last year, when the Gophers were among a smaller group of teams (the men's and women's hockey and basketball champions), the President's remarks were sprinkled with humor. After congratulating the Auburn men's swimming and diving team on its three-peat, he said, "Thanks for the Speedo. I'm not going to wear it. In public, that is."

Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson pointed out that this year's experience was different, what with the extra teams involved, but it was enjoyable both for the players who were there last year as well as those making their first visit to the White House. "It was a great time," she said. "It was fun for our national championship team to get back together one last time."

Erica McKenzie, a first-year player from Hastings, Minnesota, had never been to Washington, D.C., before, and called the trip a privilege. "It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said. "It was an awesome experience to see the White House and meet the President."

Following the ceremony, the team attended a luncheon with members and staff of the Minnesota Congressional delegation and were given a tour of the Capitol hosted by Congressman Jim Ramstad. After some free time to explore the Smithsonian Institution museums and Capitol Mall area, the team returned to the Twin Cities last night.

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