Brent Sopel simply knew it was time to retire.
“When you get a little bit older and you’ve been around the game as long as I have, eventually these things start to become a reality and you start facing things sooner rather than later,” Sopel told the Sun-Times. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a little while and ‘When is this day going to come and how am I going to know and when’s going to be the right time?’
“After some long hard thoughts, right now was the best time for me.”
Brent Sopel retires with stellar on-ice achievements, but being one of the first NHLers to reject homophobia is his most impressive feat.
— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) February 27, 2015
Sopel, 38, announced his retirement after 18 years as a professional hockey player Friday morning. A member of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, Sopel spent this season with the Wolves, appearing 29 times and scored his lone goal Sunday in what turned out to be his final professional game.
Sopel also played for Vancouver, the New York Islanders, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Montreal and in the KHL. He played in 659 regular-season NHL games and reached 1,000 with the Wolves on Dec. 3, finishing with 1,010 as a professional.
In addition to his productive career, I hope Brent Sopel is remembered for bringing the Stanley Cup to Chicago Pride. pic.twitter.com/GlAkyAkaAv
— Patrick Burke (@BurkieYCP) February 27, 2015
“We thank Brent for his service and his professionalism this season,” Wolves general manager 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.”
Sopel has made the Chicago area his home and it’s where he plans on staying. Now done as a player, Sopel will be able to spend more time with his children while pursuing his burgeoning broadcasting career and working at his hockey camp.
The area has also given a lot to him. In a statement, Sopel said “the years I spent with the Chicago Blackhawks are my fondest memories,” and that the Hawks are a “top-class organization with a foundation for success on and off the ice.”
Remember this moment Brent? Yeah, we do, too. Thanks for the memories! pic.twitter.com/NTGgMLSkBh
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 27, 2015
He reiterated that to the Sun-Times.
“I’ve played in a lot of great cities but when you win the Stanley Cup and you’re with a team that helps you fulfill your lifelong dream and goal it always has that special place in your heart,” Sopel said. “That’s what the city does, and the way they’ve embraced the game of hockey, and more so embraced myself playing the game of hockey, and broadcasting, and my family… I couldn’t ask for anything more.”