Brent Sopel is a Stanley Cup winner (2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks), but he struggles to send emails to his friends or read books to children. The former NHL defenseman — for six teams — grew up with dyslexia and dysgraphia, but was not diagnosed until adulthood when he took his daughter to a doctor to get tested for the same problems.
Sopel recently made the decision to return to school after retiring from hockey in 2015. Last week, he signed up for an online class on substance abuse, counseling, and training at Georgia-based Ashworth College.
The 12-year NHL veteran shared his story about returning to school with Justin Breen of DNA Info Chicago:
Sopel currently goes on TV as a hockey analyst for NBC and 120 Sports, and serves as the VP of business development for a credit card processing company. With his 40th birthday around the corner in January, he is trying to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life.
“For me, obviously I’m excited that I’m facing it, but in the same breath, I’m scared because it’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life. I’m not in the position to jump into trying to get a bachelor’s degree yet. I’m not comfortable enough. I’ve got to face this fear little by little. … I have to find out what I really want to do. But I love the challenge, and hopefully it will resonate with some other kids or adults, something they can relate to. And hopefully it makes my kids proud knowing I’m doing everything I can to get better.”
There’s no question Sopel’s path to a completed education will be difficult. He said he reads at a 20-word-per-minute rate. Average readers read about 200 words per minute.
After all the stories of pro athletes going broke after retirement, it’s refreshing to see Sopel attempt this journey.