The Chicago Wolves will celebrate a Brent Sopel milestone prior to Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against the Rockford IceHogs at Allstate Arena. The veteran defenseman played in his 1,000th professional regular-season game on Dec. 3. His ceremony will be broadcast live on The U Too (Digital 26.2; XFinity 230/360, RCN 35, WOW 170).
The 37-year-old SOPEL, who won the 2010 Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, has appeared in 659 National Hockey League games, 204 American Hockey League games, 136 Kontinental Hockey League games and 4 International Hockey League games since making his professional debut in April 1996 with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.
“Somebody said something to me about it last season and I’d never paid attention,” SOPEL said. “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 has been an intregal part of the Wolves this season as he has contributed 7 assists and a +1 plus/minus rating in 22 games. He has not played since Dec. 9, when he injured a finger blocking a shot, but continues to play an important role on the team during his rehab.
“The biggest thing for young guys is to learn how to be a pro,” said Wolves general manager WENDELL YOUNG. “Whether it’s conditioning, eating, putting in the time on the ice, being a good team guy, they need to learn that. Brent leads on-ice and he leads off-ice too. He brings a lot to the table. Brent is the first guy to block a shot, first guy to confront somebody, first guy to help out. That says something for his character, that’s for sure.”
The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the sixth round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. SOPEL spent parts of six seasons in Vancouver before playing for the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Blackhawks, Atlanta Thrashers, and Montreal Canadiens. He contributed 44 goals and 174 assists in NHL regular-season play along with 4 goals and 14 assists in 71 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“I’ve watched him for years,” said Wolves head coach JOHN ANDERSON. “He’s very judicious with the puck. He’s just that much smarter than everybody — that much more experienced. He plays the game the way it should be played.”