The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup this month and the trophy has been seen everywhere, from Lemont, Illinois alongside Scott Darling, to a Jimmy Buffet concert (again) as Patrick Kane’s date, to more bars than you can shake a stick at with any number of players.
But when it rode a WGN Radio float along the Pride parade route, it was unaccompanied; by a Blackhawks player, at least.
Yahoo’s Puck Daddy reports,
On the heels of an historic Supreme Court decision, approximately one million people flooded the streets of Chicago in celebration of the annual Pride Parade. Yet, of all the attendees, only one could whip the hoards of people into a frenzy as it passed through – Lord Stanley’s Cup. […]
Back when the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, the Cup rode in the parade at the request of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association. Five years and two more Stanley Cups later, the trophy returned to unite and celebrate a momentous occasion for the LGBTQ community.
Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk also appeared in the parade… dancing on the roof of a van as it drives down the road. No, not kidding. That is one brave Furry (or ‘Plushie’ for those on the East Coast.)
Brent Sopel, recently retired NHL and AHL player, was the Blackhawk designated to escort the Cup through downtown Chicago in 2010. He had been traded to the Atlanta Thrashers after the season ended, but made the return trip to be part of the parade.
Sopel didn’t make the strongest stance on LGBTQ+ players in hockey at the parade, but his presence was appreciated by attendees.
“I wasn’t here to advocate [anything], but if coming here helps break down walls in the meantime, so be it,” said Sopel in 2010.
Sopel was remembered and celebrated for his contribution to LGBTQ+ hockey at his retirement in 2015. He was the first athlete from the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB to bring a trophy to a Pride parade, and thus far, the only.
Back in 2010, the Chicago Gay Hockey Association (CGHA) suggested that the Blackhawks had agreed to have a representative attend the parade as a way to walk back some bad publicity generated earlier: someone had penned the words “is gay” next to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger’s name on the wall of the Blackhawks locker room.
Adding fuel to that fire, the Chicago Tribune printed a giveaway poster for Blackhawks fans of Pronger in a skirt with the name “Chrissy”, which, if it isn’t homophobic as the CGHA suggested, is blatantly sexist. Sending a player to Pride alongside Lord Stanley was a smart move to alleviate some of the bad publicity.
So why was there no representative from the team at the parade, particularly when it took place just over a day after the United States Supreme Court declared any marriage between two people to be legal and lawful?
While players certainly have the right to vacation, to spend time with their loved ones and relax after a long season, it doesn’t sit well that the first place the Cup would show up without a team member is Chicago’s Pride parade. Sending the mascot is something I would expect them to do regardless; it’s good publicity and hockey is popular in Chicago. Tommy Hawk is a crowd favorite.
This was an opportunity for the Blackhawks to show their fans that they were proud to be supported by all of them and they whiffed on that. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a loss.