Obama Snubs NCAA Hockey Champions

Union College left off the White House guest list for NCAA champions

April 22, 2015

Boston College men’s hockey coach Jerry York has been teasing Union College coach Rick Bennett ever since BC won the 2012 Frozen Four championship.

"Every time I see him, he asks if we ‘had been to the White House’ and I had to say ‘not yet.’ I thought that was going to change—I thought we were next in line," Bennett said with a laugh.

When Union College, a school of 2,200 students in suburban Schenectady, N.Y., won the Frozen Four in April 2014, Bennett thought he had ended the taunt for good. The White House had different plans.

Despite a yearlong campaign from local Congressman Paul Tonko (D., N.Y.) to bring the Union College team to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the administration has refused to admit the team, as it did the 2015 NCAA Football Champion Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday.

"This [Ohio State] visit will continue the tradition begun by President Obama of honoring sports teams for their efforts to give back to their communities," the White House said in a release.

Coach Bennett lamented the fact that the hockey team would be left off the White House guest list, calling it "heartbreaking for our players." He emphasized that he has no political opinion on the situation; he just wants to reward his players for their hard work.

"I don’t think it’s any different than any other team winning a national championship … if these other schools can make the visit then I don’t understand why Union College hockey can’t," he said in a phone interview with the Washington Free Beacon. "I thought what Union College hockey did was very special. For a small school to do what we did is a pretty interesting story … it was a special group of guys.

Tonko had been in touch with the White House about organizing a visit ever since Union’s April 2014 victory. The final decision was passed along to him, though the administration failed to provide an explanation for the snub.

"I was extremely disappointed to hear from the White House—in a departure from prior years—that they had no plans to recognize the 2014 Frozen Four Champions. Last year's Union Dutchmen put together an incredible season capped off with a storybook victory over Minnesota, and I believe the White House should be consistent in the recognition of our nation's student athletes," Tonko said in a statement.

The White House, which did not respond to Free Beacon requests for comment, has failed to provide any reason for ending the tradition of including the Division 1 Men’s Hockey champion in these ceremonies, according to congressional sources. He hosted the 2013 Yale Men’s team and the 2012 BC squad after their respective championships.

The White House left Rep. Tonko to deliver the bad news to school administrators and the athletics department. Coach Bennett had to tell to his players.

"I was in a bit of shock to hear the news initially," he said. A White House visit was the furthest thing from the team’s mind during its Frozen Four run, but after the tournament a meeting with the president seemed a given. Former Union goalie Colin Stevens, now a prospect with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, took the news in stride.

Bennett hopes the administration will reconsider.

"I’m not here to make a political statement or any of that because I don’t know enough about the decision," he said. "I’m hoping here in the future that someone within the White House rethinks it and we do get the opportunity to make the White House someday."