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Brent Sopel reaches 1,000 career games in Wolves loss

Brent Sopel has a Stanley Cup and a strong reputation to his name. On Wednesday, he added something else to his resume.

Sopel appeared in his 1,000th professional regular-season game, taking the ice for the Wolves in their 3-2 loss to the Lake Erie Monsters. Sopel, 37, has appeared in 659 NHL games, 201 in the AHL, 136 KHL contests and four in the IHL.

“Somebody said something to me about it last season and I’d never paid attention,” Sopel said in a news release. “Since then, you understand where you are. To have 1,000 professional games is something special. It’s been a lot of hard work. It’s been a lot of sacrifice from my kids as well as myself. It’s very special to me.”

Sopel’s presence has also meant something to the Wolves, who go out of their way to mention his value.

Before Saturday’s win over Rockford, young defenseman Jake Chelios brought up Sopel’s impact on his growth.

“It’s a perfect situation for me. It’s a good team, we went off to a really hot start,” Chelios said. “It’s an older team, too. I’ve got guys like Brent Sopel back there. I’ve been able to play with him a lot, so playing with somebody with that much experience, it’s almost like having my dad on the bench next to me.”

After the victory, goalie Matt Climie cited Sopel as a calming influence.

“We just played with a lot of poise (Saturday),” Climie said. “It helps having (Sopel) on the back end there. He just calms everything down and he’s such a good defensive player that I feel a lot of the young guys kind of look up to his game. If he’s blocking shots and if he’s working hard, there’s no excuse for a young guy not to.”

Neither were asked about Sopel, who is back in North America after a stint in the KHL.

“I get to be back here playing the game I love in the city I love,” Sopel said. “I get to come to the rink every day and being with these young guys makes me feel a little bit younger – some days. If guys have problems or need things, I’ve been around the block. If guys have any questions or concerns, I’m proudly there to help.”