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Brent Sopel: “Work ethic will get you further in life than talent”

Kaid Oliver and Jack Rodman, two young hockey players featured in the documentary, have been influenced tremendously by my efforts. They grew up feeling isolated and different because they have dyslexia. They felt there was no one else like them. Their lives have been changed and now they understand they are not alone. Things are […]

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Kaid Oliver and Jack Rodman, two young hockey players featured in the documentary, have been influenced tremendously by my efforts. They grew up feeling isolated and different because they have dyslexia. They felt there was no one else like them. Their lives have been changed and now they understand they are not alone. Things are very different for them and I am proud to watch them thrive and persevere. I want this to be my legacy. Not hockey.


As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brent Sopel, NHL Stanley Cup Winner and Dyslexia Advocate.

Brent Sopel’s National Hockey League career spanned 1997–2015. In 2010, he won the Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He also played for the Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Atlanta Thrashers, and Montreal Canadiens during his NHL career. Brent’s life aspiration is to bring awareness of Dyslexia, help those who suffer from the disorder and to help make a positive change for those who need it most. He founded the Brent Sopel Foundation for Dyslexia to provide financial and educational assistance to help students with Dyslexia to fulfill their potential through early detection and intervention.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to your career path in professional sports?

Growing up in Canada, it is minus 50 degrees in the wintertime. There is not much else to do but play hockey — I started skating at 2 years old. In Canada, hockey is everything and there are outdoor rinks everywhere. It wasn’t a just sport; it was a lifeline for me. It was the only place I felt comfortable. The only place I wanted to be was on the ice. I went straight from the junior league to the professional league.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What were the lessons or takeaways that you took out of that story?

When I played in Vancouver, I had long hair. People kept sending me money to get it cut. I didn’t cut it for about 4 years. Everybody knew me for my hair.

What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your success?

There is only one thing you can control and it’s how hard you work. Work ethic will get you further in life than talent.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

I wouldn’t say one person as I’ve had a lot of people who have made a profound impact. The biggest influencers were parents driving me to the rinks and around the country to play, not to mention getting me to 6 a.m. practices every day.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about what it is like being a professional sports player?

It has its pros and cons just like everything else. Hockey was great to me except I always had to move, and my kids didn’t like that. That’s part of the behind-the-scenes that no one outside of pro sports understands.

Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I started the Brent Sopel Foundation for Dyslexia three years ago to bring awareness and advocacy to all dyslexics. Having a built-in platform and recognition allows me to reach a wider audience.

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

I want to raise awareness of dyslexia, help those who suffer from the disorder and to help make a positive change for those who need it most. To that end, I founded the Brent Sopel Foundation for Dyslexia to provide financial and educational assistance to help students with Dyslexia to fulfill their potential through early detection and intervention. In addition, I recently released a documentary, Brent Sopel: Here to Change the World, to provide hope to other dyslexics.

I also do speaking engagements and mentoring. Honestly, I do anything and everything because you never know who is going to hear the message.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

When I was in the 9th grade, I was asked to stand up and read in front of my English class. That was probably the worst day of my life. At that point, I didn’t know what was going on. Reading words that aren’t there, stumbling, and having my peers laugh at me. I know about the challenges of dyslexia first-hand because of my lifelong struggle with the learning disorder. I want to offer positive coping strategies as a dyslexic who has persevered. Through my foundation and new documentary, I hope to let all those whose lives have been impacted by dyslexia know that success is not only possible, you can actually achieve greatness, and help to change the world. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, and over 40 million people in the US alone are dyslexic; unfortunately, only around 2 million of them have been diagnosed. I wasn’t diagnosed until age 32, and only after my young daughter was diagnosed because she was struggling with reading. We got her help early and now she is in college. Early diagnosis, intervention, and awareness makes a huge difference in a kid’s journey.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

Kaid Oliver and Jack Rodman, two young hockey players featured in the documentary, have been influenced tremendously by my efforts. They grew up feeling isolated and different because they have dyslexia. They felt there was no one else like them. Their lives have been changed and now they understand they are not alone. Things are very different for them and I am proud to watch them thrive and persevere. I want this to be my legacy. Not hockey.

What are your 3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I honestly don’t have any because I have had to go through every lesson to get here today.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My documentary is called Here to Change the World, but I have to educate the world on dyslexia before I can change it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

You’ve got to love yourself 100%, before you can love anyone else the way they need to be loved.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

President Trump, because I can’t go any higher to someone to help me advocate for dyslexics.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website is Brentsopelfoundation.org and you can watch the documentary from there. I am also on Twitter at @brent_sopel.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring

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