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Brent Sopel Won't Let the Conversation End

Sopel has been among the most vocal figures in support of Kyle Beach since the lawsuit was filed against the Blackhawks organization this past summer. And he's not done. "If management had done what they said they would do, we wouldn't be talking today."
Brent Sopel

"If management had done what they said they would do, we wouldn't be talking today." 

That's the message Brent Sopel wants to resonate most when discussing the horrors inflicted upon Kyle Beach by the Chicago Blackhawks organization. 

Sopel was a member of the Blackhawks team that captured Stanley Cup glory back in 2010. He played in all 22 games of that postseason run, logged 18:30 in ice time each night, and even chipped in a goal and five assists.

By all measures, Sopel was a key contributor. A member of the leadership group. Someone who was tapped into the frequency of the team. 

Which makes it peculiar to find that, of those key contributors, Sopel is apparently the only one who was seemingly aware of the allegations against video coach Brad Aldrich. 

"Nick Boynton and I were part of the original group that had the conversation about it with (skills coach) Paul Vincent," Sopel told The Hockey News in an interview on Tuesday. 

"Was it talked about in the locker room? In my mind, it was. But I can't comment on what other guys knew or didn't know."

Sopel has been among the most vocal figures in support of Beach since the lawsuit was filed against the Blackhawks organization this past summer. In that time, former teammates such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith have done the opposite, each denying having any knowledge of the allegations both at the time and in the years since. Keith, even, went as far as to turn down a request to be interviewed in the Jenner & Block investigation, which was crucial to revealing the breadth of the team's misconduct, because he believed his obliviousness left him with nothing to add. 

Sopel does not share that sentiment. In fact, he believes this issue to be bigger than hockey, one that transcends the confines of sports and touches every facet of corporate America. 

In order to drive positive change, conversations must be had.

But it wasn't always easy for Sopel to speak out.

As he revealed in an interview with TSN's Rick Westhead in June 2021, Sopel was initially hesitant to go on the record about the claims of sexual abuse against his former teammate out of fear that the Blackhawks would retaliate by attacking his charity, the Brent Sopel Foundation. But Sopel recognizes the importance his voice holds as an advocate for Beach. Which, above all else, is what matters here. 

"This isn't about me", explains Sopel. 

"This isn't about anybody else but Kyle" 

Silence is not acceptable. It never was -- Beach suffered for over a decade because of it -- and it certainly isn't now. Sopel recognizes just that, and has dedicated himself to reaching as many people as possible to share Beach's story. To whoever will listen, Sopel will speak. 

Sopel was traded from the Blackhawks to the Atlanta Thrashers in the weeks following the Stanley Cup victory. From there, his and Beach's paths diverged for the next decade, only to indirectly cross again this summer when the lawsuit became public knowledge. 

Sopel would play one more season in the NHL before retiring in 2011. Beach would stay in the Blackhawks system for the next four years, a period during which word of his abuse became at least well-known enough within the organization that it trickled down to the team's AHL affiliate in Rockford. 

As revealed in the Jenner & Block report, an assistant coach for the Rockford Ice Hogs felt familiar enough with Beach's claims to include them in a scouting report at the end of the 2011 season, writing, "I think what happened last summer with Brad Aldrich weighed on him big time". 

"Whoever knew about it and didn't come forward needs to pay for it," Sopel explained.

"You cannot cover anything up. Money doesn't cure fame, it doesn't cure happiness. Nothing. Kyle's life is changed forever by many, many, many mistakes." 

Sopel was scheduled to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday to discuss ways in which the league can effect positive change, and has since confirmed that the meeting did indeed take place. While he cannot discuss the specifics of what was said, one thing is clear: His next step is action. 

"The messages that I have received that detail just how many victims are out there is astounding", Sopel said. 

'This message isn't just for them. This is for the whole world now. Every one of us has to learn from it, implement things, and then act on change that will hopefully lead in a positive direction"

And until then, Sopel is determined to not let the conversation die. 

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