File this under the pleasantly surprised category. Yahoo sports blog “Puck Daddy” (which has some gay overtones itself) is reporting that this years Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks will be present in this year’s Chicago pride parade, due to take place on June 27th.

Homosexuality pretty much doesn’t exist in popular North American professional sports, unless a player comes out after they’ve retired or it’s the butt of the joke. In one picture released from the Chicago dressing room moments after they won the cup, Pronger’s name is written on the board next to a clearly visible “gay”.

Hockey seems to be leading the way of sorts for acceptance of other sexualities. After the death of Toronto GM Brian Burke’s openly gay son Brendon, many players and hockey employees came out with statements of their support. I hope it doesn’t take any more untimely deaths to make any more progress.

Puck Daddy writes that the parade appearance may be some “image rehab” after the dressing room picture’s release. In any case, I think this is a great thing the Blackhawks are doing. You can accuse many companies of joining the parade for sole financial reasons, but I don’t think going after the gay market will bring in too many dollars for them. The appearance seems to be genuinely supportive.

Now, hopefully we’ll get to see some of the hotter players work the float in some booty shorts. Any Chicago-ers willing to send me pictures? 😛