The Chicago Gay Hockey Association ( CGHA ) is taking its show on the road, at least for one night.
The CGHA team, known as the Blackwolves, will play a game March 13 against the Columbus ( Ohio ) Gay Hockey Team at the same arena used by the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League ( NHL ) .
The CGHA has about 50 members, its largest membership ever, with 16 full-time players ranging in age from about 20 to 50. The majority are gay, but the CGHA also has bisexual, trans and straight players. Most live within the Chicago city limits.
"It's a great group of individuals and everyone has been having a good time over the past few months; it's been great watching the team succeed and grow," said Stephen Leonard, 25, of Chicago, who, in mid-February was elected the new CGHA president.
"We are all very excited about kicking off the next generation of the CHGA. There is a lot of energy right now with the players and we're looking to bring that to both the hockey and LGBT community in Chicago."
The new CGHA board of directors also includes Andrew Sobotka ( vice president ) , Randy Saeks ( treasurer ) and Tony Tiet ( secretary ) . Plus, John Adams, Mike Kelly, Ryan Ruskin, Benji Michalek and Tom Economou make up the CGHA's advisory board. Chuck Jacobson, who lives in Lakeview, is the team's founder.Read more story below....
"It's a changing of the guard, so to speak, as all officers are relative newcomers to the team," Leonard said. "Yes, the new Board consists of a handful of team members, mostly fresh new faces with some whom have been with the team for quite awhile.
"We're really aiming to provide a fun and non-discriminatory environment within the hockey community. By doing so, we hope to assist with developing skilled players and build membership while simultaneously providing community outreach. We want to bring the sport to anyone and everyone interested."
The Blackwolves are now in their second season playing at the North Shore Ice Arena in suburban Northbrook. The team is 3-1, most recently defeating the first-place team.
"We have a really strong and diverse team," said Leonard, who plays defense and noted that the team has not had any gay-related issues in the North Shore league. "On the ice, with everyone in competitive mode, things get a little rough from time to time. But when on the ice, sexuality and stereotypes don't seem to play a role. Everyone is there to play and have a good time. And, of course, win.
"It's important to us to keep a fun and safe environment for everyone. We all are connected through the love of the sport."
Leonard, who stopped playing hockey before entering high school in his native Michigan, said the team's skill-level has been steadily increasing over the past year or so.
"We're shaping up to be a really strong group," he said.
The CGHA has long participated in the annual Chicago Pride Parade, with most players roller-blading with sticks along the route. The CGHA also will likely have a presence this summer at the annual North Halsted Market Days.
"We're always accepting new members; however, we are mid-season right now, so the chance to be a full-time player," for the remainder of the current season, which ends in the spring is limited," Leonard said. " [ New players ] will have to wait until next season, which likely will be in the fall. However, we also are in talks of putting together a floor hockey team for the summer."
For more information on the CGHA, visit www.chicagogayhockey.org .