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Pens' Bylsma gets surprise call from President

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Standing on the red carpet leading into the NHL Awards Show at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma almost had a story for the ages Thursday.

His cell phone, low on battery charge, rang and a voice said, "Hold for the President..."

"I was scared big-time," Bylsma said. "I didn't know he was calling. My phone charger is broken, and I was down to my last bar. I was scared it was going to go out.

"In the two seconds that I'm waiting to hear from him, I'm wondering, 'Does the President call back?'"

President Barack Obama would know what area code to dial. His congratulatory call to Bylsma, whose Penguins won the Stanley Cup last Friday, was his second to a member of a Pittsburgh pro sports team in four months.

Obama spoke with several Steelers after they won the Super Bowl in February. Later he named the NFL's championship chairman Dan Rooney as a U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

Bylsma will remain simply the Penguins head coach, though he'll always remember his first conversation with the "most powerful man in the free world."

"It was a brief conversation. He congratulated us. He lamented that his team, Chicago, didn't have a chance to play us. And he talked about Pittsburgh being the 'City of Champions,'" Bylsma said of Obama, who also invited the Penguins to the White House in the fall.

"It's unique. To recognize that voice, to know it's the President talking to you. It's one of those shake-your-head moments, and I've had a few in the past six days."

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