Julien, players embrace the moment

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Boston Bruins put on their Sunday best and spent a few hours on Monday at the White House with the president of the United States.

The team bus carrying the 2011 Stanley Cup champions arrived a little before noon. Team management, coaches, players and staff were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the White House and later met Barack Obama.

Bruins coach Claude Julien, who spoke with Obama on the phone last June after the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks, was all smiles on Monday after the reception.

“To me, this represents closer to the Stanley Cup run,” Julien said. “It also motivates you to want to come back. To me it served two great purposes here today.”

Julien kept using the word “unbelievable” when asked to describe the day. He called it an honor and a privilege to meet Obama and go behind the scenes of the White House.

“At the end of the day, the highlight is always about meeting the president of the United States and having a chance to shake his hand and meet him in person. I really felt privileged to get a phone call from him at the end of June after we won the Cup. This is more than that now, it’s an opportunity to meet him and shake his hand. What a great gentleman he is.”

Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron has experienced a lot during his pro career. Winning the Cup is the ultimate goal, but a chance to meet the president in the White House was a special moment for him, he said.

“To come to the White House is something amazing,” Bergeron said. “I’m just happy to have that opportunity to do that.”

During his seven-minute speech, President Obama mentioned a few of the players by name, but the best part was when he called Brad Marchand “the little ball of hate.”

“I definitely wasn’t expecting anything like that,” Marchand said. “It was pretty cool hearing that from the president and it’ll be something I’ll always be able to brag about.”

The entire team stood behind the president and laughed at his description of the pesky forward.

“It was funny,” Bergeron said. “He made a great speech and it was fun to be there and meet him. To hear him talk about us, it was special.”

“It’s pretty surreal,” Marchand said. “You see the White House growing up and obviously the president is legendary all over the world and to be able to be here and meet him is a pretty cool thing.”

The one thing that stood out for GM Peter Chiarelli was that the president seemed “down to earth” and like a normal guy, he said.

“It really felt like he actually liked sports,” Chiarelli said.

The president and Bruins team president Cam Neely spoke for a few minutes about golf and the course that Neely belongs to on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Coming here as an organization means you’ve won a championship, so it’s pretty special for the organization, great for ownership, great for the City of Boston and all our fans in New England for the Bruins to be here.”

Now, it’s back to work for the Bruins. They’ll face the Washington Capitals on Tuesday at Verizon Center before the annual mid-winter break for the All-Star game.

The theme Monday was that the Bruins want to come back to the White House in 2012 as defending Cup champions. The Bruins believe they have a chance to accomplish that goal.

“We’re a good team. We’re a deep team,” Chiarelli said. “Hopefully we can go into the break with another win and then you’ve got the stretch drive. Our guys know what stretch drives are now and we’re better suited for them and I hope we’ll be able to embrace that.”