President Trump calls Penguins 'incredible patriots' during their White House visit

Hosting the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at the White House on Tuesday, U.S. president Donald Trump lauded the team as role models on and off the ice, touting the Pens' chance at a three-peat in 2017-18 and calling the group "incredible patriots."

"You are true champions and incredible patriots," Trump told the team, as seen on CBS News.

President Donald Trump addresses the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at the White House. CBS News

In between comparisons of Sidney Crosby to Mario Lemieux, jokes about the Penguins being "a handsome group" and suggestions that Lemieux could help renegotiate NAFTA, the president also delivered individual remarks about Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, Conor Sheary and Matt Murray, inviting each of the players to shake his hand.

The Pens' visit to the White House had been a hot topic in the wake of Trump's incessant commentary on protests across professional sports, many of which arose in retaliation to the president's profane September call for NFL owners to "fire" players who knelt during the national anthem.

Crosby and the Penguins, however, maintained that visiting the White House was "a great honor" -- a tradition for championship teams but one that Trump rescinded from the NBA's Golden State Warriors after the team's Stephen Curry said he would be against a visit to the White House. Their sentiments clashed with that of others around the NHL, including protesting players like J.T. Brown and ex-Penguin Georges Laraque, who called Pittsburgh's decision to visit Trump "an embarrassment."

Crosby, for what it's worth, appeared to maintain his distance from Trump during the White House visit, shaking the president's hand but hardly moving from his post despite repeated comments from Trump about the repeat Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

Crosby himself had reiterated before Tuesday's visit that "there's absolutely no politics involved" from his standpoint.

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