For over 25 years, Brent Sopel, former 2010 Stanley Cup Champion and Chicago Blackhawk defenseman, hid behind hockey. It was a place he could be who he wanted to be without anyone knowing the pain that lay deep. When the last puck was dropped on his NHL career, he was faced with a reality that he had refused to accept since early childhood. What would happen next would be nothing short of a mountain to climb.
Brent Sopel grew up in Vancouver, Canada, where playing hockey was his passion. Reading, writing, and arithmetic was something that seemed to haunt him. He was far behind all his childhood classmates, but it didn’t matter. Like many other great athletes, he was pushed through school with a pass on his grades. Brent Sopel would never read past the 4th grade level until he reached his mid 30’s. Why?
Brent Sopel could never read well, but swinging a hockey stick was no problem. It wasn’t until he had children that his condition was uncovered. Much like himself, his oldest daughter also had problems reading in the first grade. From there, Brent’s wife decided to get their daughter tested. The results of the test came back positive for dyslexia and dysgraphia.
Brent Sopel realized that he, like his daughter, had the same symptoms and problems as his daughter. He too had dyslexia and dysgraphia. Despite knowing what he had, there was no calm within him. His NHL career was winding down and now the inevitable would come. He would need to hang up his skates and enter the world for the first time without a hockey stick. Not only was Brent dealing with dyslexia, but he was also dealing with loneliness and alcoholism.
His friends and family did what they had to do by intervening. Brent would enter rehab and exit with more than he ever had. He had a new lease on life and an understanding that life would be “ok”.
I’m no longer just “Brent Sopel, former NHL defenseman.” I have an opportunity to help those who are going through the same things that I did. In doing so, I also have an opportunity to continue to heal myself.
My issues used to torture me. They brought me to rock bottom. They brought me to the darkest period of my life.
But I will not be defined by what happened to me.
I am more than that.
We all are. – Brent Sopel
Quote from “Lost in My Mind“
We at the National Alliance on Mental Illness / Cook County North Suburban would like to thank Brent Sopel with his generosity in the time he has taken to assist us in raising money for the NAMI CCNS cause by hosting this year’s Special Kids Network / NAMI CCNS fundraiser. It was an amazing night with amazing people that gave generously to improve the lives of individuals with serious mental illness and those who love and care for them through education support and advocacy. Thank you, Brent!
You can find more information on Brent Sopel on his website, BrentSopel.com.