Former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel has played for many teams and played a lot of games over the last 18 years, but on Friday the blue liner announced that he was hanging up his skates and retiring from the sport of hockey.
"I have been so lucky to play the sport I love for the last eighteen years," he said in a statement. "I fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning a Stanley Cup championship with the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks. Today’s decision is not made lightly. This is the right time for my next chapter."
Sopel, who this season has been playing for the AHL's Chicago Wolves, played in the NHL for 12 seasons, making stops in Vancouver, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, and Montreal. He broke into the league with the Canucks, playing 322 games with the franchise while scoring 33 goals and dishing out 97 assists.
Where Sopel made his biggest mark was in Chicago. Playing for the 2010 team that brought the Blackhawks their first championship since 1961, Sopel was an important part of the team’s blue line group and became known for his shot blocking ability and penalty killing prowess.
"While each professional season holds a special place in my heart, the years I spent with the Chicago Blackhawks are my fondest memories," he said of his tenure with the team. "The Chicago Blackhawks are a top class organization with a foundation for success on and off the ice."
The area away from the rink will be important to Sopel with his retirement, as he will continue to serve as a hockey analyst for NBC 5 Chicago, and he’ll also have an extended presence on the airwaves for 120 Sports. He’ll continue working on the ice as well, coaching defensive skills at his Sopel Academy of Defense camps.
"I look forward to staying involved with hockey while maintaining family roots in Chicago," he said. "I am excited to spend more time with my children in the city we call home."
This season with the Wolves, Sopel had seven assists and scored his first goal of the year on Sunday in what would end up being his final professional game.
"We thank Brent for his service and his professionalism this season," Wolves G.M. Wendell Young said in a statement. "He has been an excellent role model for our players. We wish him the best as he pursues other dreams in the hockey world."