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Wolves’ Sopel skates in 1,000th pro game

(chicagowolves.com) — Defenseman Brent Sopel joined an elite group Wednesday night when the puck dropped for the Chicago Wolves’ game at Lake Erie as he took the ice for his 1,000th regular-season game as a professional.

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, 201 American Hockey League games, 136 Kontinental Hockey League games, and four International Hockey League games since making his professional debut in April 1996 with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.

The Wolves will honor Sopel and celebrate this milestone with a ceremony prior to the team’s game on Saturday, Jan. 3, against the Rockford IceHogs at Allstate Arena.

“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.”

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the sixth round of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. After honing his craft with the Syracuse Crunch, Sopel spent parts of six seasons in Vancouver before earning stints with the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Thrashers, and Montreal Canadiens. He contributed 44 goals and 174 assists in NHL regular-season play along with four goals and 14 assists in 71 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Sopel spent the last three seasons in Russia before joining the Wolves this season. Going into tonight’s game he has delivered seven assists and a plus-3 rating in 18 games while serving as a valuable sounding board for the team’s younger players.

“I get to be back here playing the game I love in the city I love,” Sopel said. “I get to come to the rink every day and being with these young guys makes me feel a little bit younger – some days. If guys have problems or need things, I’ve been around the block. If guys have any questions or concerns, I’m proudly there to help.”