SUN Hockey Pool

Flames would accept White House invite

Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla celebrates with Chris Butler, Rene Bourque and Olli Jokinen after...

Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla celebrates with Chris Butler, Rene Bourque and Olli Jokinen after scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio Dec. 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Matt Sullivan)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:51 PM ET

Whether or not you agree with Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas’ snub of the traditional White House visit after winning the Stanley Cup, it’s tough to argue against the fact it was within his rights to skip the celebration.

But for a pair of Calgary Flames players born in the U.S., it would be a tough event to pass up if they had the opportunity.

“I certainly don’t agree with everything the government does and what a lot of politicians stand for, the way a lot of things are done behind scenes,” said defenceman Chris Butler, a 25-year-old from St. Louis. “I understand where he’s coming from, I guess.

“But if I get a chance to get into the White House, I’m still going.”

So is winger Lee Stempniak, who’s never been to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and would jump at the invite.

“I would actually love the opportunity to go. Hopefully that’s coming up some day,” said the 28-year-old winger from West Seneca, N.Y. “Politics aside, the history of the White House, probably the biggest symbol of the United States and the government, to me it’s almost just more being recognized by the office more so than the individual or the President.”

Thomas released a statement Monday night about his reasoning for skipping the visit, which also included current Montreal Canadiens blueliner Tomas Kaberle and retired winger Mark Recchi.

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,” wrote Thomas. “This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

“Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.”

Some view his move as a slight on his team.

Some might have done the same thing in his shoes.

Stempniak wasn’t about to criticize the eccentric netminder.

“He’s certainly entitled to his own opinion and to make a statement. I have no problem with it,” Stempniak said. “I don’t know if I would have done it the same way, or done it at all. But by no means would I make a judgement against him. It’s part of being an American is you have that right, and he exercised it.”

Butler hasn’t heard of anything like this before.

“I’ve heard of guys missing it because of failed background checks,” he said. “I believe there were guys with records they wouldn’t allow on the grounds.

“The beautiful thing about being an American is freedom of speech. Like anybody, it’s a choice. You can do whatever you want.

“If I was in that position, I definitely would go.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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