They won a championship and cruised around town with The Cup. Hey, it was a pretty good Pride weekend for the Chicago Gay Hockey Association ( CGHA ).
The second-ever Chicago Pride Classic was held at McFetridge Sports Center from June 25-27, drawing 175 players from across the U.S. and Canada, plus additional fans and guests, for three days of slapshots and goalie kick-saves. The event had 10 teams in two divisions ( four Competitive Division teams, six Recreational ).
The Toronto Wolfpack won the Rec Division, 6-0; while the Chicago Black Eye Liners claimed the Competitive Division title, winning 7-3.
"[The tournament] was bigger, better and more awesome," than the first one, held a few years ago, said CGHA president Andrew Sobotka. "All of the [off-ice] events were great; the host bars pulled out all the stops for our participants."
Former CGHA player Stephen Leonard, who now lives in New York, sang the national anthem, as did Madam X.
The CGHA will travel to Montreal in October for a gay hockey tournament, and it plans to next host the Chicago Pride Classic again in 2019, Sobotka said.
"This tournament was a huge fundraiser for us; this will help us have some money on hand for years to come," Sobotka said. "We also had a bunch of new players who live in Chicago; we found some really good talent via this tournament.
"The tournament brought together players from all backgrounds from the LGBT and allied communities."
Almost all of the tournament participants marched in the Pride Parade with the CGHAand of course, the Stanley Cup. A sea of red ( tournament t-shirts ) preceded The Cup, which rode on the WGN Radio float.
"It was great to have the Cup there, but I would have liked to see a player [from the Blackhawks] there, [too]," Sobotka said. "Imagine the impact if [team captain Jonathan] Toews or [talented and popular forward Patrick] Kane showed up; that would have been huge and all over the press; people would have been talking about it for years."
The Hawks have won the Stanley Cup three times over the past six yearsand The Cup has appeared in the Pride Parade twice ( 2010 ).
"It was great to partner with WGN Radio for the parade. They had a float and a DJ and we just didn't have the bandwidth to run the tournament and pull together a huge parade effort, and that's not to say our 200 marchers in red didn't make an impact," Sobotka said.
Hawks' mascot Tommy Hawk also appeared in the parade.
The Cup went to Crew Bar & Grill in Uptown before the parade, where the 10 tournament teams had their pictures taken with the silver trophy. Others also had their picture taken with The Cup.
After the parade, The Cup stopped by Sidetrack and Roscoe's in Boystown.
"We received a call early Sunday morning that the Stanley Cup would make be making several stops before and after the parade and one of them would be [at] Sidetrack," Sidetrack general manager Brad Balof said. "I was very excited, but had to get to the float [ready], so I passed things over to Bill Stadt, who I knew would be over the moon [with joy] because he is a huge Blackhawks fan.
"The Cup arrived later in the afternoon and people were so happy. We ushered The Cup into Sidebar and the crowd went nuts. Word spread fast that it was there and Blackhawk fans made their way [to see it]. The Sidetrack security staff did an amazing job organizing a photo line that kept things moving and in about 45 minutes over 150 people were able to get a photo with Lord Stanley."
Balof said that the decision of the Wirtz family, which owns the Blackhawks, to bring the Stanley Cup to the parade and three additional gay-owned bars "is a testament to [the] idea that this [Stanley Cup championship] was for all fans everywhere," Balof said. "I watched many LGBTQ fans cry when they stepped up to The Cup at Sidetrack. For many sports fans, being gay and loving sports is something they have had to keep separate or view as separate for a lot of their lives. For many gay kids sports were torture because sports is often used as a measure of masculinity. And gay kids who grew to be great athletes often kept their sexuality hidden due to the stigma of being gay in athletics.
"The Stanley Cup appearing at Sidetrack, for me, was a symbol that those times are ending. Stigmas have been broken; championships are for everyone. It also proves that the Blackhawks are leaders, who appreciate all their fans."
Photos of the Stanley Cup and fans at Sidetrack can be viewed here: sidetrackchicago.com/galleries/stanley_cup/ .