Puck Daddy - NHL

After finishing off the Philadelphia Flyers, the Chicago Blackhawks have taken the Stanley Cup to bars, restaurants, clubs, a children's hospital, Wrigley Field and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." 

Andrew Sobotka is hoping the team and the trophy will make another appearance on June 27, at the annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade.

Sobotka is the president of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, which has been around since 2002 and currently boasts around 40 members. It's one of dozens of hockey organizations for gay players in the U.S., including one of the most successful associations in Madison, Wis.

Like millions of others in the city, they watched each game of the Blackhawks' run to the Cup, celebrating their achievements with the civic pride that cut through cultures and demographics for the last few months.

(It even cut through loyalties to other teams. If the name "Sobotka" is familiar, it's because Andrew's father Al is the octopus-twirling ice technician for the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Andrew, in turn, was a Red Wings fan "unofficially" pulling for their arch rivals.)

What the CGHA hopes is that the Blackhawks continue that mission of bringing the city together in the name of puck, and to support grassroots hockey in Chicago, by appearing at the Pride Parade for what they believe would be the first time in franchise history.

"We'd love the Stanley Cup there. We'd love the Stanley Cup and the whole team there. But we're humble enough to take what we can get," said Sobotka. "We invited everyone in the organization. If we can't get any players, hopefully we can get another member of the team."

The timing may be right for the request to be seriously considered.

First, it's clear that the Blackhawks have the attention of many groups in the city that may not have previously been hockey loyalists. When a team pulls a 50 share locally in the TV ratings, it's not just hockey fans tuning in to watch the Stanley Cup Finals.

As Sobotka told the Windy City Times:

"On the night of the 'Hawks Stanley Cup win, Clark Street [in Lakeview] was full of people celebrating, while a few blocks over, Halsted [Street] was almost like a ghost town. The CGHA realized that there are plenty of opportunities for the Hawks to increase their presence in the gay community by being more inclusive.

"Our goal of having some of the players and other members of the organization skate alongside of us in the Pride Parade, was to really let the Blackhawks know that there is a strong interest in hockey within the gay community."

Yes, skate: The CGHA may roller-blade through the Pride Parade.

Another aspect of good timing: This year has been a transformative one for gays and professional hockey thanks to the inspirational story of the late Brendan Burke, and the way his father Brian Burke, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, publicly supported his son's coming out and continued supporting gay rights after Brendan's tragic death in a February car accident. There's a growing, progressive tolerance in hockey. 

So the moment might be right ... but can the Blackhawks make time for the event?

Sobotka told us Friday that he called the community relations department for the Blackhawks to follow up on the request, who informed him they're "looking into" availability. Many of the players are home, many will be traveling that weekend; and the Cup's travels are always plentiful and booked in advance during the summer.

That said, the members of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association are just looking for some kind of representation at the parade. And we're sure half the crowd at the Pride Parade wouldn't mind if it were a few of Chicago's Finest. Meaning their Ice Girls.

(Ed. Note: A few readers have pointed out the obvious choice that we missed here: Chris Pronger(notes), based on the locker-room scribbling that may not exactly jibe with Gay Pride; and for his infamous foray into cross-dressing.)

It's partially to raise their own profile as a hockey organization: "We're from all over the country. Chicago's such a large city that there are gay hockey players who come here from all over the country and don't know we exist," said CGHA member David Stefanski.

But, as Stefanski said, it's also for the Blackhawks to broaden their support.

"The Blackhawks have never had a float in the pride parade as far as we know," he said. "They have a very good opportunity to reach out to a community that they wouldn't reach."

What are the chances the Blackhawks participate? Tough to say. The issue's gotten play in the Chicago Sun-Times, and it's not unusual for straight politicians, television and radio personalities to appear at the parade to mingle with the citizens.

There's no denying that there is still cultural sensitivity in appearing at a Pride Parade, but perhaps the cultural has moved to a place where the Blackhawks could be represented without repercussions. No one's asking for a player to show up in an Indian headdress and a pair of leather chaps. OK, we're about 99 percent sure no one is.

And if there was one player on the CGHA's wishlist for the Pride Parade on June 27?

"Patrick Sharp," the voices on the phone said in unison to us today. 

Huh ... wonder why?

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