“It must change the world.” Brent Sopel Says Nothing Will Be The Same To The Blackhawks’ 2010 Season After Kyle Beach’s Sexual Abuse Allegations

Hockey knowledge will tell you that an unbreakable bond has been formed between teammates through the tribulations of a championship season.

“Win today, and we’ll walk together forever,” was how Hall of Fame coach Fred Shero once molded the relationship.

But for at least one member of the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the franchise’s more than decade-long concealment of team member Kyle Beach’s allegations of sexual abuse by the club’s video coach has shaped the nature of that eternal walk of champions. changed.

“Winning that Stanley Cup will always be a part of me. I will always love my teammates, what we’ve been through,” Brent Sopel said in an interview this week. “But at the same time, it will never be the same – nothing will ever be the same – after hearing what Kyle went through.”

Sopel has been hailed as one of the rare good guys in the Blackhawks scandal, the veteran defender who, in the midst of his flight to the Stanley Cup, learned about the burden Beach was carrying and, along with teammate Nick Boynton, brought it to the attention of the United States. management. Boynton has since said that “everyone” on the team was aware of the sexual misconduct allegations against video coach Brad Aldrich. Sopel has publicly encouraged other teammates to do “the right thing” and tell the truth about what they knew. But no one else said much. An outspoken outlier in a culture of silence, Sopel said he’s not interested in taking credit.

“All of us in this hockey world have let Kyle down,” Sopel said this week. “Every one of us needs to look in the mirror and see how we can get better.”

44-year-old Sopel promises to go beyond the usual post-crisis platitudes. He met NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on Thursday to discuss possible avenues for positive change in the wake of the Blackhawks debacle. Although Sopel declined to go into details of the conversation through his manager Mike Sanow, he described it as a “positive” meeting with the league’s two top managers.

Sopel has scheduled a sit-down next week with leadership at the NHL Players’ Association, which has also come under fire for his inaction on behalf of Beach. Which, for Sopel, is only beginning to surface from his daily grind. Though he retired in 2015 after playing 659 games in the NHL, Sopel has been busy since then as the founder of the Brent Sopel Foundation. Originally launched to provide support for people with dyslexia, a language-based learning disability that Sopel himself has long struggled with, Sopel said he has since expanded the foundation’s scope to include support for people battling drug and alcohol addiction and, in particular, light of Beach’s story, support for survivors of sexual abuse.

“I get calls from all over the world. My phone won’t stop ringing,” Sopel said. “People look at me, ‘How do you deal with it?’ But it’s my goal, I want to leave a legacy in this world, and that it’s not about hockey.

“(Beach’s story) must change the game. It must change the world. It’s negative and we need to find a way to turn it into something positive.”

Former Chicago Blackhawks defender Brent Sopel, speaking about the kind of abuse Kyle Beach has allegedly dealt with, says:

As a player, Sopel said, he competed more than once with “broken bones” and “an out of place back” because, he said, he was “petrified” by the prospect of a life outside the game. Perhaps as a side effect of that pain-ridden existence, Sopel said he’s fought the ravages of substance abuse for a long time, five years sober but always alert.

“I live it every day. It’s hard to stay sober,” Sopel said. “People ask me, ‘What would you go back and tell your younger self?’ And I say, “Nothing.” Because I had to go through all these things in my life to get to where I am today, to have the strength to support Kyle.”

Sopel said he is well aware that Beach’s horrific experience, as impressive as it may have been at its unveiling, is not a one-off. Let alone the litany of sexual abuse stories that have made headlines in the sports world in recent years. Hockey has its own long and dark history in the realm. It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since Laura Robinson wrote a groundbreaking book about sexual abuse in hockey. And while that book, “Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada’s National Sport,” focused specifically on junior hockey’s disturbingly fractured culture, Robinson said she only learned of a series of similar stories after the book’s publication.

“I remember a very well-known Canadian man in political circles who told me, ‘(Sexual abuse) was the reason I quit hockey in bantam and never went on an ice rink again,'” Robinson said in a recent interview. “I had the husband of another well-known female MP tell me the same thing. These stories, there are so many…”

So many stories of abuse, too few stories of support. Although, as Robinson noted, it’s worth recalling the members of Calgary Flames in the mid-1990s who, after teammate Sheldon Kennedy shared the story of his abuse by Graham James, lent a listening ear.

“There was always a player on (Kennedy’s) side. They took him to a coffee shop. They wouldn’t let him go home alone,’ Robinson said. “How come when we have a good example of what a teammate really does, we end up with 15 years later (players on the Blackhawks reportedly hurling homophobic insults at Beach)? What happened? Because after Sheldon and after Theo ( Fleury, also a survivor of abuse), it had to be different… What happened? I think that homophobic, toxic masculinity, that culture, is very difficult to eradicate.”

Sopel said he did not personally witness the homophobia. Beach says he had to endure in the middle of that Stanley Cup run. But more than 10 years later, Sopel said he was encouraged to see the positive response this summer when Luke Prokop, a prospect with the Nashville Predators, became the first active player under an NHL contract to say he was gay. Sopel, who brought the Stanley Cup to Chicago’s Pride parade in 2010, said it’s a sign of progress, no matter how small.

Still, the memory of 2010 will never be the same, not after the scandal of 2021. But if those Cup-winning Blackhawks don’t hit the road together forever, Sopel hopes the hockey world can talk more often about the things that have us here. brought .

“I have always been open to myself. It doesn’t matter what race, what color – we are all human,” said Sopel. “I believe the world is changing. There are many more sympathetic ears than there were. But there must be much more than there are… “I can’t comment on what my teammates say or do. All I can say is that I’m here for Kyle and what he’s been through. I believe in him and I support him and every victim out there.”

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