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White House 'Driveway' Hosts Hockey Players


The street outside the White House, home to the U.S. president, has long been the scene of political demonstrations and protests. But since the pavement in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to traffic for security reasons more than a decade ago, it has become a venue for other activities.

This is street hockey - an urban game played on in-line skates in many North American cities. Players need a smooth street surface to compete on.

And Jim Burther knows just the place. It happens to be right outside the White House in downtown Washington, DC.

"It's certainly a convenient spot, it's a little novelty playing in front of history, but it's also the notion of having a wide open surface, that's available to us, that's very smooth, that's conducive to the game," he said.

This group of street hockey players gets together regularly on the street outside the U.S. President's residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This section of street has been closed to traffic since the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal government building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma that killed more than 165 people and injured hundreds of others. But the avenue remains open to street hockey players and others on foot.

White House historian, William Seale, says it has allowed pedestrians to get very close to the White House despite tight security.

"It's the personal touch, it's the personal connection to the White House. I think it's been smashingly successful," he noted. "The whole issue is the White House is a home and relates to the people."

Street hockey has rules, but these players must also obey the rules of the Secret Service - the agency responsible for protecting the president.

At the same time, Jim Burther says officers have been known to return stray balls.

"They've been terrific for us, they've been very nice and we try very much to respect the rules and what they need to do for their jobs, so that if they need to block things off, we understand that's their rules," he said.

Street hockey player David Epstein says his sport contrasts sharply with the high stakes politics and diplomacy that plays out a few meters away inside the White House.

"It's not so much about winning or losing, as about playing well and having a good time," he explained.

Having a good time, even in the heat of the Washington summer, playing in front of one of America's most famous addresses.

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