WASHINGTON — President Obama congratulated the University of Minnesota’s women’s hockey team for winning the NCAA championship in a ceremony Monday on the South lawn of the White House.
The Gophers, winners of back-to-back national crowns, were among 19 collegiate teams recognized for winning national titles.
“We’ve got the Minnesota women’s hockey team, which includes a few players who competed for Team USA in Sochi. Yeah,” the president said, setting off a brief ovation from the athletes seated in front of him.
The Gophers and all other women’s teams represented came in for special praise from the president.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the young women here,” Obama said. “There was a time when college women’s athletics was relegated to second status. And all of you here are showing the incredible strides that we’ve made over the last couple of decades.”
The Gophers also met Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar Monday morning and in the afternoon headed for the White House to chat and be photographed with the president.
“We were all blown away about the way President Obama was,” team captain Bethany Brausen said. “He took the time to shake every one of our hands and talk to us about hockey.”
The team was especially moved by Obama recognizing the importance of women’s sports.
“For the longest time men’s sports have been the ones in the media, on television, all that stuff,” said Brausen, a 21-year-old senior. “For him to kind of point us out and say ‘You guys are being great role models and leaders for younger girls growing up,’ to hear that from the President of the United States absolutely floors you.”
Obama also paid tribute to the range of athletic opportunities available to college students today. In addition to ice hockey, teams on hand represented lacrosse, soccer, cross country, fencing, field hockey, rifle drill, tennis, golf, volleyball, track and field, softball and water polo.
“It’s traditional to bring football and basketball teams here,” Obama said. “I think that for all these outstanding athletes and sports, it’s important to acknowledge that your investment and time and effort and dedication is just as significant.”