Former NHL defenseman Brent Sopel has found a way to combine his love of hockey and a cause close to his heart.
Sopel, 40, and his teenage daughter, Lyla, have dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to interpret words, letters and other symbols. The 12-year League veteran, who won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and last played in the NHL during the 2010-11 season, is the driving force behind Play with the Pros, a youth clinic being held Saturday at Rocket Ice Skating Rink in Bolingbrook, Illinois, in conjunction with the Brent Sopel Foundation.
All proceeds will benefit dyslexia therapist training and the Dyslexia Buddy Network.
Also expected to take part in the clinic are Blackhawks forward Ryan Hartman, Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel and former NHL players Adam Burish, Ben Eager, Daniel Carcillo and Brad Lukowich.
Sopel wants to have more teachers in classrooms point out learning disabilities affecting children and get them the help they need.
"I started [this foundation] because I never want another kid to feel the way I do each day," said Sopel, who had 218 points (44 goals, 174 assists) in 659 games with the Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Blackhawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Montreal Canadiens. "Kids are the future of this world.
"It was actually after [my daughter's] neuropsych test when they were going through her answers, that's when I really found out what I had and how identical her answers were and my answers were. If it wasn't for her getting tested, she wouldn't have known and I still wouldn't have known why I struggle the way that I do."
Sopel is hoping the project expands.
"I want to grow the clinic nationwide," he said. "Right now I only have Chicago ... I want to start slow and make sure it's done perfectly.
"There's a lot of people out there that don't really have any clue about dyslexia. It's a way to find a way to support these kids."