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Huge media attention for Blackhawks at Pride

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What started with a simple idea has catapulted into a monster mainstream media story. Within hours of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association inviting the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to the Gay Pride Parade, the story got attention from Outsports, Yahoo, ESPN.com and other outlets.

“We were shocked how the story of our invite to the Hawks was played in the media; it was everywhere,” said CGHA president Andrew Sobotka.

The Blackhawks reportedly sent the CGHA’s invite to the players, and defenseman Brent Sopel volunteered to represent the team at the parade. Sopel also took the story to another level, truly bringing the story home, giving it heart. Sopel said he was going to ride in the parade on the CGHA float in honor of the late Brendan Burke, who died in an auto accident in Indiana in February – and Sopel was bringing the Stanley Cup with him.

“I knew Brian personally for years, and I met Brendan a couple of times, and when you see a story like that (of his death) ... any young kid that dies like that is tragic. Nobody should have to bury their children,” Sopel told ESPN.com. “So I said it was a great idea [to be in the parade].”

Ironically, Sopel was traded by the Hawks to the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday, yet Sopel said he still will participate in the parade with his wife, Kelly.

The CGHA’s simple idea – and Sopel’s gracious move – has been everywhere in the media. The Associated Press covered the story with a lengthy story, as did the New York Times and ESPN.com.

Plus, there has been coverage in The Huffington Post, Perezhilton.com, MSNBC.com and the New York Daily News, among others. Of course, every media outlet (print, radio and TV) in Chicago has covered the story.

“The past two weeks have been surreal,” Sobotka said. “It went from a simple gesture to something that’s made history, and nobody in the CGHA expected this.”

The CGHA and Sopel will wear BB patches in the parade to honor Burke, the same patches worn by the Miami University hockey team, where Burke was a team manager.

The ticker-tape parade for the Blackhawks days after their Stanley Cup victory drew an estimated 2 million fans. The Chicago Gay Pride Parade annually attracts about 450,000 onlookers. Some are speculating that this year’s Pride Parade could draw in excess of 1 million onlookers, mainly because The Cup is there.

All from the CGHA’s one simple invitation.

You can follow Ross Forman on his blog.