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President George W. Bush shakes hands with Gopher Coach Laura Hallderson.

President Bush shakes hands with Gopher women's hockey coach Laura Halldorson at the White House on May 19.

U women's hockey team honored at White House

By Rick Moore

Published on May 20, 2004

They finally got to meet George--at George's house, even.

The University of Minnesota women's hockey team was honored in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, May 19, for winning the 2004 NCAA Frozen Four championship in late March. Coach Laura Halldorson and her players were recognized in a special ceremony--along with the other Division I hockey and basketball champions--with President George W. Bush at the White House.

"I was pleased to know that the University of Minnesota women's hockey team's slogan this year was 'Get it done, and meet George,'" President Bush said at the ceremony, sparking laughter and applause. "It's my pleasure to meet you. You beat Harvard and you became the first women's team in school history to win a national championship, and that's got to make you feel great. Congratulations."

"It was one of those out-of-body [experiences], where you don't really realize that it happened till it's over and you look at the pictures," said Gopher captain Kelsey Bills.

"It was exciting just to be able to participate in something of that magnitude--the ceremony, going to the White House, meeting the President--all those things," said Halldorson, whose team beat Harvard 6-2 in the championship game. "When we came up with the slogan 'Meet George' at the beginning of the year, I didn't think we knew what it was going to be like. It was more than I expected."

"I honestly didn't think I'd be starstruck before it happened, but I definitely was," said senior captain Kelsey Bills, who presented Bush with a personalized team jersey. "It was one of those out-of-body [experiences], where you don't really realize that it happened till it's over and you look at the pictures."

The Gophers were joined at the ceremony by men's Division I hockey champion Denver, as well as the men's and women's NCAA champion basketball teams from the University of Connecticut.

Halldorson noted that President Bush was in a great mood and full of humor during the ceremony with the four teams, as well during a short meet-and-greet beforehand with just the Gopher team.

Bush even recalled a prior experience with one of Minnesota's players. "I warned her I was going to say this, but Krissy Wendell... and I met at the Winter Olympics," he said. "It was there that she handed me a cell phone so I could speak to her mother. I worked hard to convince her mother it was actually the President speaking to her. I tried as hard as I could to sound exactly like myself."

The whirlwind day for the Gopher women--they had all of about 20 minutes to take pictures of the Washington Monument/Lincoln Memorial area--was capped by a reception on Capitol Hill with members and staff from the Minnesota Congressional delegation. The team then flew back to the Twin Cities late Wednesday evening.