Parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer believes the prominent representation of two of Chicago's major sports teams reflects a major step forward in breaking down stereotypes and fostering positive attitudes.
"It's a major breakthrough," Pfeiffer said Tuesday. "Everybody is thrilled.
"I think it says something about the changing of our culture. So much has changed as far as attitudes."
Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks will ride on the float, which will be red, white and blue with bricks and ivy. The song celebrating wins at Wrigley Field -- "Go Cubs Go" -- will be played on the float. The parade route is near Wrigley.
"I would say it's part of being a good neighbor by the entire Ricketts family and Cubs organization," Cubs senior vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano said. "The Cubs have supported the parade for many years, although this is the first time we'll have a float as an extension of the support the team has had for the community."
Sopel, who will ride on the Chicago Gay Hockey Association's float, said the first person he thought of when approached about the opportunity was Brendan Burke, who died in an auto accident on Feb. 5. Burke, who is the son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, came out as a gay man last November.
"[Brian Burke] was my GM for five years [with the Vancouver Canucks], and with Brendan coming out and then being killed four months later, that was the first thing that popped in my head," Sopel said. "I knew Brian personally for years, and I met Brendan a couple of times, and when you see a story like that ... any young kid that dies like that is tragic. Nobody should have to bury their children.
"So I said it was a great idea [to be in the parade]."
Despite being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday, Sopel said he'll still participate in the parade and will be on the float with his wife Kelly. He said he's looking forward to the event and believes it encourages tolerance and open attitudes.
"That's part of the reason I'm doing it," he said. "My wife and I have three children. We feel that everybody is equal.
"It should be fun. I hear a lot of great things about it. And it works out, because the Cup will be in town."