The Chicago Gay Hockey Association invited the Blackhawks to join Sunday's Gay Pride Parade after the team won its first Stanley Cup title since 1961 — and the team said yes. So did the Chicago Cubs, who will have their own float in the parade for the first time.
According to the Hockey Hall of Fame's Phil Pritchard, it will mark the first time the NHL's championship trophy has been on display at a gay-themed event.
"We are thrilled that it worked out as it's important for the city and important for the franchise," Blackhawks spokesman Adam Rogowin said.
Defenseman Brent Sopel and his wife, Kelly, will accompany the Cup on a float in the parade. Sopel, who was traded this week to Atlanta, is a 33-year-old father of three who said he volunteered to honor the late son of Toronto general manager Brian Burke, his former boss in Vancouver.
Brendan Burke, 21, was killed in an auto accident in February, just three months after publicly disclosing his homosexuality.
"Anybody who has had to bury a child has suffered a heartbreak and this was the first thing that came to mind," Sopel said. "Everything that happened last year with Brendan coming out last year and dying three months later, it was a tragedy."
Sopel said he's not really trying to make a statement.
"But everybody is a person and we all have feelings," he said.
As for the Cubs, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks will ride in a vehicle decorated with a brick-and-ivy motif reminiscent of Wrigley Field's outfield wall. The ballpark is only a few blocks from the parade route, and the Cubs have supported various gay community causes over the past several years.
"We know we have many fans in the community," said Mike Lufrano, the team's vice president of community affairs.