When members of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association ( CGHA ) took the ice at Soldier Field in Chicago for an intra-squad game during the winter of 2013, the temperature was in the low 20s and the wind was brisk.
"That's part of playing outdoor hockey," said Andrew Sobotka, 29, CGHA's president. "The  game was amazing. There is nothing quite as cool as playing in an empty and illuminated Soldier Field at night."
That game, featuring 40 CGHA players, ultimately went into a shootout. "We had such a close game; it was one for one with goals; it was very evenly matched," said Sobotka, who noted that the chilly conditions "makes it interesting, for sure; when it's snowing, the snow builds up very quickly on the ice, which makes it harder to see the puck and slows the play down a little bit."
The CGHA is returning to Soldier Field on Sunday, Feb. 15, for another intra-squad gamewith a trophy awarded to the winning captain. Sobotka said there won't be a wager on the game, just bragging rights. The puck drops at 3:30 p.m.
In order to secure the prime ice at Soldier Field, the CGHA is required to sell 200 tickets to the 2015 Hockey City Classic, a doubleheader of college hockey at Soldier Field on Feb. 7. In the first game, Miami ( Ohio ) battles Western Michigan, followed by a Big Ten battle between Michigan and Michigan State. The college games start at 3 p.m., and the CGHA is selling tickets for $55, available via PayPal, for the special CGHA section at Soldier Field. The CGHA group-block of tickets are in section 230, rows 1-10
The CGHA uses this event as one of its major, annual fundraisers.
"This is an important event for us since it brings the CGHA together to play CGHA vs. CGHA hockey," Sobotka said. "While we will make some money off this event, it's more important for us to get our players together for a friendly game in an awesome Chicago landmark."
The team expects to raise a few hundred dollars, Sobotka said, and the funds will used for expenses associated with the second-ever gay hockey tournament, the Chicago Pride Classic, which the CGHA is hosting over Pride weekend in late June.
"I'm very excited to be back [skating] at Soldier Field," Sobotka said. "The last time we played there, the level of competition was great."
Sobotka, who works in IT Operations for CSG International, lives in Wrigleyville and has called Chicago home for the past eight years. He is originally from Michigan, and he has skated for the CGHA for five years.
He is a 2007 graduate of Michigan State, so his loyalty for the Hockey City Classic will be green and white.
"We have several players who went to Michigan, Michigan State and Western Michigan, so it should be fun for us to watch these teams battle it out," Sobotka said.
The CGHA fields five teams that play in four different leagues across Chicago. Players range in age from 21 to 50 and the club even features players from Canada and Spain. "We welcome all players, regardless of skill level or orientation," Sobotka said.
"We've grown by leaps and bounds [since] I joined five years ago, [when] we had one team," Sobotka said. "I think we're more diverse [now] than we've ever been; we also have more women than we've had in past years."
- To purchase tickets to the Hockey City Classic through the CGHA, go to: chicagogayhockey.org/hockey-city-classic/ .
Note: This article has beeb updated to reflect a change in start time from 8 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.