The root of their friendship is playing ice hockey and drinking ice-cold beer.
David Stefanski and Ted Hack each grew up in suburban Chicago, then landed in Champaign at the University of Illinois, where each graduated in 2008. They now live in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood and are teammates on the Chicago Gay Hockey Association's Chicago Blackwolves team that plays in Northbrook.
Stefanski is gay; Hack is straight.
They remain the best of friends.
"The first time I met Ted was when he was a pledge in our fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa," Stefanski said. "I was bartending the night of our barn dance, and he showed up to the bar wearing this huge oversized foam cowboy hat. Of course I made fun of him for it, and he made fun of me right back. We've been friends ever since.
"Ted is among a select few friends who I consider my 'best friends.' I don't think there is anything Ted and I can't talk about, whether it's family, friends, relationships, whatever. He knows more than anyone about my past and vice versaand I know I can trust him with anything."
Stefanski, 24, graduated from Chicago's Loyola Academy in 2004, where he played for the Ramblers' hockey team, which is perennially ranked among the top five teams in Illinois. His high school hockey career included a state championship, when the junior varsity team he played for won the title in overtime. He is now a graduate student at the University of Illinois-Chicago, working on a masters degree in accounting.
Hack, 23, graduated from Lake Zurich High School in 2005. He played club-level soccer in college and is now a consultant for Content Direct.
"I met David when I was rushing Phi Sigma Kappa [ fraternity ] ," Hack said. "We hit it off and ended up being roommates my sophomore year of college before he left to study abroad in Italy for the semester. I think our friendship grew because I took an interest in his relationships when others, [ such as ] family and some friends wouldn't ask. I wanted David to feel comfortable telling me these things, free from judgment."
Added Stefanski: "Playing hockey at Loyola was extremely competitive and always challengingit was wonderful. I was not out in high school; I was still questioning what my sexuality was at that point in time.
"We won the state championship when I was a junior in high schoolit was amazing to get to see all of your hard work pay off at the end of a long season. We skated almost every day of the week, whether it was a practice or a game, and to have it all come together like that is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have."
Stefanski came out as a college freshmanas a fraternity pledge, no less.
"I wanted to join a fraternity knowing they were OK with diversity," he said. "I'm not sure how Ted found out I was gayI know I didn't tell him; someone else must have. But given his responses to other people coming out [ after me ] , it was probably [ then ] along the lines of, 'OK, let's get back to drinking our beer.'"
Hack said he knew Stefanski was gay when they met, partially because Stefanski was open about his sexuality. "Not that he flaunted it, but everyone knew," Hack said. "I was open to it and was never uncomfortable about it."
And still isn't.
Hack, for instance, has played hockey in Buffalo Grove on most Friday nights with the same groupand he asked Stefanski to join them.
Hack also asked Stefanski if he too could play for the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, the city's only predominantly gay hockey team, which features LGBT players and several gay-friendly allies.
Stefanski and Hack were both part ofand onthe CGHA's much-publicized float in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade, which featured the Stanley Cup and a former member of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, Brent Sopel.
" [ It ] definitely was a much different experience being on the other side of the guard rails, being a participant [ in the parade ] with the [ CGHA and the Stanley Cup being the ] focal point of the parade," Hack said.
Stefanski added: "The highlight of the parade was having my mom [ Jean ] and sisters ] Kellye and Courtney ] there. Their support meant the world to me, and to have them there and share what we did was, hands down, the best part of the day.
"My sisters are only 11 months younger than me, so growing up, depending on the years, we actually tried out for the same boys' teams at [ young ] levels. One year we actually all wound up on the same team for one season. The CGHA gives us all a chance to skate together again, like when we were little kids.
"I've definitely gotten closer with my sisters over the college years. We support each other no matter whatbecause we're family. All families have their stumbling blocks, but I really don't think anything could ever keep us apart for long."
It's the same for Stefanski and Hack.
Hockey position: "Defense … the universe seems off kilter if I have to play forward."
Favorite sport: Hockey
Favorite pro team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite pro athlete: Roger Federer
Favorite movie: Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
Favorite TV show: Home Improvement, House Hunters International
Little-known fact: Is an Eagle Scout
Hockey position: Center
Favorite sport: Soccer
Favorite pro team: Chicago Cubs
Favorite pro athlete: Michael Jordan
Favorite movie: Dark Knight
Favorite TV show: Arrested Development
Final comment: "Dave's cool!"