Gay hockey team's Christmas video goes viral
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by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

There's still no reply from Mariah Carey, not even a showing-some-holiday-cheer Tweet. But members of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association (CGHA) remain optimistic that their just-released playful version of her classic "All I Want For Christmas Is You" somehow finds its way to the singing sensation.

"If anyone knows her, please show her the video," said Andrew Sobotka, president of the CGHA, which released the light-hearted video on Thanksgiving and has since watched it sail through cyberspace. To date, the video has been viewed more than 138,000 times.

"We wanted to make the video just for fun; we really love the song and we thought it would be a great way to show that we have fun and it would be good to send to our friends from [other] gay hockey associations instead of a traditional Christmas card," Sobotka said. "The response has been amazing. We didn't anticipate that so many people would find the song and enjoy it. We really were shocked when people started Tweeting and sharing the video. We didn't realize it would go viral and get picked up by so many media outlets."

CGHA skater and board director Brian Hull added: "Considering our singing and dancing skills, I don't think anyone thought this was going to blow up the way it did."

But, there has been some negative feedback to the video too, Sobotka confirmed. "[Some] people can't seem to wrap their head around the fact that we're branded as a 'gay hockey association.' [But] we really want to emphasize that we're all-inclusive and we have players that are straight, gay and everything in between."

The video was shot at American Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood on Nov. 16, the same venue used for ice hockey for the Gay Games in 2006 and a past gay hockey tournament hosted by the CGHA. They recorded the vocals at Handwritten Recording on Belmont Avenue in about 90 minutes. There were six CGHA players in the studio to record the song, and each of the six had a solo. Stephen Leonard, who skates for the team and has shined locally as a singer too, came up with the plan for the vocals since he has the most experience producing music, Sobotka said.

"As with everything we do, the goal is to inform people about our organization, so that we can continue to expand and add more Red Liners teams," Sobotka said of the team's nickname. "We also wanted to make sure that the video had a good message about acceptance and tolerance for all."

Hull added: "The best part of this whole experience is just bringing awareness of the CGHA, and gay athletes in general, to the broader Chicago community. A lot of gay teens give up high school or college sports that they're very successful at due to the fear of coming-out and dealing with homophobic teammates and coaches. For younger gay athletes, we want them to have the courage to keep playing their sport and know that we've got their back. And for the more mature gay hockey players, we want to let them know that there's a community of competitive, fun-loving, athletic people out here that are just like them and waiting with open arms."

Dan Savage was one of the first to Tweet the video, "and his comment that the gays 'out market' the Catholic Church was pretty funny," Sobotka said.

Sobotka, 28, lives in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, and has been skating for the CGHA for almost four years. He is still a Detroit Red Wings loyalist, though, hailing from Michigan.

"I'd venture to say that my vocals are the weakest of the group, and that matches nicely with my atrocious dance moves," he said, laughing. "Some people somehow seem to find my singing endearing since it's so imperfect."

Sobotka said the team was recently approached by Red Eye to film a follow-up, which should come out before Christmas. "It's similarly fun and even pokes fun at ourselves," he said.

"The video has opened up our organization to our widest audience yet," Sobotka said. "In the past, we've had [mainstream] media exposure for doing big things, [such as] having the Stanley Cup in the 2010 Gay Pride Parade, but this video has reached beyond just the gay community and beyond the hockey community."

The CGHA has four teams and an adult instructional program, with about 65 members, ranging in age from 21 to 50.

About 15 players were at the video shoot.

The video was done by Glam Tie Media.

To watch the CGHA video, All Chicago Gay Hockey Assn. Wants for Christmas, go to the link: Article Link Here .

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