Remarks on Greeting Members of the Washington Capitals and United States Olympic Hockey Teams

September 29, 1983

The President. What's the penalty for delaying the game? [Laughter]

Well, a welcome to all the players, the coaches, and the managers, and thank you all for coming. I understand we're going to have a little exhibition right here in the Rose Garden. Just don't let me be caught between the two teams. From the hot rivalry we hear you have going, you may just melt the ice at the Capital Centre Friday evening.

Athletic rivalry is the best spirit of competition, and you've put me in a predicament for Friday's game, because both teams here are in a sense hometown teams. The U.S. Olympic team is America's hometown team, and the Capitals are Washington's hometown team. So, I'm not going to pick a favorite. In politics, they call this fence-sitting. [Laughter] We do wish both teams the best of luck for a good game.

Now, a couple of members of the '84 Olympic team also played in the 1980 Lake Placid games. Before the big game with the Soviet team, the coach told the players, ``You were born for this moment. This is your moment.'' And I don't think we'll ever forget the picture of those young Americans, not favored to win by a long shot, but win they did.

Abe Pollin, the owner of the Capital Centre, is here today, too. I should tell the teams to check the rink pretty carefully before you skate out on it Friday. I was out there last Saturday, and where you'll be skating there was a rodeo going on. [Laughter]

But the Capitals give Washington a very much needed team to cheer for. And I want you all to know I follow your progress. Last year you were great. This year we hope you'll be even better. And, again, thank you all for being here. And good luck tomorrow night. And, well, play ball. [Laughter]

Mr. Langway. Mr. President, on behalf of the Washington Capitals, we'd like to give you this official Capital jersey on behalf of the whole team.

The President. Well, thank you very much.

Mr. Langway. Also, I'd like to give you a little token from a little slogan on the puck, ``The puck stops here in '83 and '84.'' [Laughter]

The President. Thank you very much.

Mr. Langway. And also, Mr. Vice President, we'd like to give you the same thing.

The Vice President. Why, thank you. Beautiful. That's great.

Mr. Verehota. [Phil Verehota, captain of the Olympic team] Mr. President, on behalf of the 1984 Olympic team, we also have an official Olympic jersey to go along with that Washington Capital jersey.

Team member. We're a little short on players, so you might have to play tomorrow night.

The President. I just got an offer to play tomorrow night. [Laughter]

Thank you.

Mr. Verehota. Mr. Vice President, we'd like to give you our team pendant.

The Vice President. Hey, thank you very much. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

Mr. Brooke. [Bob Brooke, defenseman on the Olympic team, presented the President with a trophy filled with jellybeans] Mr. President, on behalf of the U.S. Olympic team in 1984, for our appreciation for having us here and your support, a little token of our gratitude. [Laughter]

The President. Thank you very much.

Mr. Langway. Well, Mr. President, we hear that you were a pretty good athlete in your day -- [laughter] -- so, I think we're going to try a new sport for you. And I'd like to show you how to shoot a puck, if I can shoot one. [Laughter]

This is Gretsky's stick. He's got a lot of goals with it, so I'm sure you -- [laughter] -- --

[At this point, Rod Langway, team captain of the Washington Capitals, and the President stepped onto a small plexiglass rink, complete with goal, which had been constructed in the Rose Garden. Mr. Langway shot several pucks at the goal, tended by Olympic team member Bob Mason, as he talked.]

It's like sweeping dust off the ice. That's all you do.

Team member. Between his legs, he's weak. [Laughter]

Mr. Langway. It's all yours.

The President. [Inaudible] -- try and get it by him?

[The President shot a puck past Mr. Mason and into the goal.]

You will never see me hit another puck again as long as I live. [Laughter]

[The President walked back onto the rink, pulled a bogus hockey puck from his pocket, and dropped it onto the rink.]

And for the press that keeps asking questions in photo opportunities -- [laughter] -- --

[The President shot the puck toward the reporters gathered behind the goal.]

Want to try one, George?

The Vice President. No. [Laughter]

The President. Well, listen, thank you all very much.

Mr. Pollin. Are you sure you're busy tomorrow night, Mr. President?

The President. What?

Mr. Pollin. After the way you shot that, you sure you're busy tomorrow night? [Laughter]

The President. I think I'd better confess, I was really aiming at him. [Laughter]

Mr. Langway. That's what we all do.

The President. Well, good luck to all of you. Thank you.

Reporter. What about Andropov? [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 3:15 p.m.