Veteran NHLer Sopel calls it a career

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Journeyman defenseman Brent Sopel — who appeared in over 650 NHL contests with the Canucks, Blackhawks, Kings, Islanders, Thrashers and Canadiens — announced his retirement on Friday, while in the midst of playing with St. Louis’ AHL affiliate in Chicago.

“I have been so lucky to play the sport I love for the last eighteen years,” he said in a statement, per NBC Chicago. “I fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning a Stanley Cup championship with the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks. Today’s decision is not made lightly. This is the right time for my next chapter.”

Sopel spent the majority of his NHL career in Vancouver — scoring a career-high 10 goals and 42 points during the 2003-04 campaign — but won his first and only Stanley Cup as a member of the Blackhawks in 2010. He appeared in 22 games that spring during Chicago’s playoff run, finishing with six points and a special connection to the city.

“While each professional season holds a special place in my heart, the years I spent with the Chicago Blackhawks are my fondest memories,” he said. “The Chicago Blackhawks are a top class organization with a foundation for success on and off the ice.”

Following his last NHL campaign (in ’10-11 with Montreal), Sopel spent a few seasons playing in the KHL before returning to North America to play in the AHL.