DENVER — Defenseman Brent Sopel was selected as the Blackhawks’ Bill Masterton Trophy nominee by the Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association.
Sopel, 33, was limited to 23 games last season after elbow surgery, but has become a key contributor on the Hawks’ blue line this year. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has praised Sopel for both his reliability and for improving the penalty kill.
Sopel has become known for his ability to block shots at key times for the Hawks. He has 117 blocked shots this season and has missed some time this season with various bumps and bruises.
“Last year was a tough year,” Sopel said Friday. “I’ve been around a long time. Mentally, I had my wife and kids pushing me along, keeping my spirits up. As a player, all you want to do is play. When you’re out for 50-odd games and the playoffs, it’s very frustrating.
“I wanted to come in in the summer and work hard and come into training camp with a great attitude and show them that I can still can play, even though I am getting a little older — real, real old compared to these guys on this team. I just wanted to come in with a good attitude and work hard.”
The Masterton Trophy is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Bryan Berard is the only Hawk ever to win the award, taking it home in 2004 after overcoming an eye injury. This is the first time Sopel has been nominated in his career.
Off the ice, Sopel is active in the community. For the second straight year, Sopel and his wife, Kelly, supported “Operation Homefront” with a holiday party at their house. Sopel and some teammates also purchased gift baskets.