Darryl Sutter is a Stanley Cup-winning coach with the Los Angeles Kings.
He’s also a fiercely proud Albertan, and given the chance to meet US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, he had a message on a subject near and dear to Canadians.
No, not the de facto national sport of ice hockey.
Rather, Sutter reportedly wanted to score a point for the Keystone XL Pipeline, a controversial project that has strained ties between the North American neighbors.
“I’m gonna ask him about it — damn rights (sic) I am,” said Sutter, according to The Globe and Mail, generally viewed as Canada’s national newspaper. “It’s 20 feet underground. How can we not want to keep North America (energy self-sufficient)? Why does the border have to separate that? It doesn’t make sense. For sure, I’m going to ask him.”
Sutter, who actually never played for or coached the appropriately-named team of the Edmonton Oilers, was with the Kings in Washington, along with Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy, to receive accolades from Obama, a presidential tradition that has recent sports champions feted at the White House.
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The much-delayed pipeline is under review from Obama’s State Department and has faced heavy opposition by environmentalists who say it represents a spill risk to groundwater supplies and would result in greater development of Alberta’s dirty tar sands.
Oil advocates and their allies in Congress have said the $7 billion pipeline would create thousands of jobs and help make the US more energy secure by importing oil from its friendly northern neighbor. Obama has been lobbied by Alberta Premier Alison Redford and other Canadian officials to approve the project.
In his public remarks to the teams, Obama made no mention of the pipeline, but praised them for their accomplishments and service to the community.
Sutter, meanwhile, did not speak to the press, and the White House would not say whether the pipeline came up, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“But the two made nice, at least during the public ceremony,” the Times noted.
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell told the team’s official blog that he also was in the dark on what his coach and the president discussed.
“The first thing that went through my mind was wondering what (Obama) and Darryl were talking about,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know if it was Alberta beef or that pipeline. I’m curious to whether that conversation happened.”