Sopel talks about leaving the Wings
Robert Lang sits along one of the three walls of lockers. Martin Lapointe is a handful of stalls away from Jason Williams. And Brent Sopel ...
Well, Sopel was kind of a Red Wing. The defenseman went through Detroit's training camp as a free-agent tryout this fall. He was with the team for its first eight preseason games before signing a contract with the Blackhawks.
Standing in the middle of Chicago's locker room before playing his kind-of-ex-team, the Red Wings, Saturday, Sopel was both apologetic and amused by the unusual situation.
Sopel traveled with the Red Wings to Toronto nine days ago for the final preseason game. Before boarding the team plane, Sopel received a contract offer from Chicago. (Detroit had already offered him a contract.)
After the plane landed and the team traveled by bus to the Air Canada Center, Sopel and his agent decided to sign with Chicago, but were unable to contact Detroit general manager Ken Holland by phone.
Sopel didn't dress for the game and left the building before it was over.
"There was a lot of miscommunication, a lot of missed phone calls, a lot of things that happened that obviously I didn't want to happen," said Sopel. "It was one of those circumstances. After we landed in Toronto, we tried to get ahold of Kenny Holland to discuss the situation that was going on. Couldn't get ahold of him for a long time. Finally when we did, it was just before game time."
By coincidence, Sopel's wife and children were spending that day at a water park in Niagara Falls, Ont., before heading to Detroit. Sopel rented a car in Toronto, drove an hour on the Queen Elizabeth Way to spend the night with his family. Sopel flew out of Buffalo the next day to Detroit to retrieve his belonging.
Sopel is a top-four defenseman in Chicago, getting more than 21 minutes of ice time in the Blackhawks' first game. That status helped sway him to choose Chicago over Detroit.
"Obviously, (the Red Wings) are pretty deep top three, four guys (on defense)," said Sopel. "I probably wouldn't have been there where I wanted, where I think I could play on a normal night to contribute. That definitely played a role in things."