Former NHL defenseman Brent Sopel released a statement Wednesday adding context to his comments from last year about Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford, who is currently being investigated by the team after allegations that he was abusive toward players during his long career as a head coach with other franchises.
Former NHLer Sean Avery recently said that Crawford kicked him so hard it "left a mark" when Crawford was head coach of the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. Sopel played under Crawford during his tenures with the Kings and the Vancouver Canucks. In a 2018 appearance on the "Spittin' Chiclets" podcast, Sopel said the coach had kicked, choked, and verbally abused him.
Sopel's quotes attracted plenty of recent attention in light of Crawford being investigated. He posted a statement Wednesday on Twitter that credited Crawford for making him a better player, noted that he'd talked about his experiences "as a former NHL defenseman, not as a victim," and clarified that he won't comment on how the coach impacted others.
"I told some stories from many years ago about my time as a professional hockey player," Sopel said of his podcast appearance. "I shared those stories to entertain the listeners. I told those stories as a former NHL defenseman, not as a victim.
"The stories that I shared ... have recently been cited alongside accusations made by other players against coach Marc Crawford. It was not my intent to make any allegations against anyone or any organization. I was only speaking to how Coach Crawford affected me. I cannot speak for how others were affected by him. I played hundreds of games for Coach Crawford, including a season where I posted 42 points. He found ways to motivate me and make me a better player. He molded me into a player that went on to win a Stanley Cup in Chicago.
"I recognize and respect that different coaching tactics affect people in different ways. Just as I prefer others not speak on my behalf about my life experiences, I will not comment on Coach Crawford's impact on other players. Those are not my stories to tell.
"Time has a way of changing people and the way that we do things."
Crawford, 58, oversaw 1,169 games as a head coach and won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. He joined the Blackhawks' staff this past summer.
Sopel played 659 NHL games and recorded 218 points over a career that featured stints with the Canucks, Kings, Islanders, Blackhawks, Thrashers, and Canadiens. His final season in the league was 2010-11.