skip navigation

Sophie's Squad

12/10/2021, 1:45pm CST
By Bryan Zollman

Foundation aims to raise awareness for mental illness


Sophie Wieland was a 14-year-old player for Sartell when she passed away July 12. Now, a foundation has been formed in her honor to raise awareness for those suffering from mental illness.

Terry Hughes noticed Rachel and Sophie Wieland, two dedicated hockey players who made a 90-minute weekly trek to participate in his shooting program, didn’t show up for practice July 12. This was unusual.

Then he received a call from Rachel.

“It’s not good,” Rachel told him. “Sophie took her life tonight.”

Terry couldn’t believe it. Sophie had been in Terry’s ‘Skate to Excellence’ program for the past year and a half. She was just 14 years old, the youngest of three children to Henry and Aimee Wieland of Sartell, Minn.

“She was a great kid,” Hughes said. “Always happy, 4.0 student…she was in everything, all the clubs, a violin orchestra since she was 5…she was very busy and involved.”

Sophie played hockey, soccer, track and cross country. She was actively involved in many activities at school including student council, Academic Triathlon, Knowledge Bowl, SMS Tech Team and Equity Club. She also volunteered for MN Wild Special Hockey. 

Upon hearing the news Terry cried. One of his players was gone. A parent himself, the heart-wrenching grief of losing a child was unfathomable. 

Then the coach in him kicked in. He had two teams he was bringing to Boston two days later. He asked the parents if it was okay if he told the team about he loss of their teammate and friend. They agreed, so Terry brought the team together before their Boston trip and relayed what he knew.

“I remember them coming across the parking lot before we huddled together, smiling and laughing, not knowing what they were about to know,” he said.

The girls were shocked.

“Everyone was very emotional,” he said.

One of the girls asked if the team could wear white socks on their Boston trip because Sophie would only wear white socks during practice. The team was supposed to wear black socks, but Terry not only bought white socks for the Boston trip, he bought them for every player in his program.

The team made the trip to Boston, but it wasn’t about hockey. After talking with Henry and Aimee, Hughes encouraged them to allow Rachel to make the trip. He thought it would be good for her to be around her friends and teammates. 

“I like to compete and I like to win,” Terry said. “But this wasn’t about hockey at all. It was about getting them grounded. It was about bonding and coming together.”

While on the trip he held a parents meeting and told them, “We need to do something. I don’t want this to happen to anybody again.”

They formed a committee and met every other week beginning on Aug. 5. They planned to help raise money for mental health awareness and providing access to resources for those needing to reach out for help. One parent pitched the idea of a “Teal Out Night” for the first girls high school game of the year. Teal was Sophie’s favorite color.

The date of the game was Sept. 11 between Sartell/Sauk Rapids and Rogers. The arena in Rogers filled up fast.

“Kids came from all over,” Hughes said. “Forest Lake, Maple Grove, Stillwater…the building was packed.”

Sophie’s sister, Rachel, drove up from Gustavus. Terry’s daughter, Gabbie, drove down from Duluth where she is a star for the UMD Bulldogs, and his son, Collin, came from Lakeville. Sophie’s parents, Henry and Aimee, dropped a ceremonial puck along with sister Rachel.

Media outlets from the Twin Cities and metro newspapers showed up to get the story.

“It was fantastic,” Hughes said. “It was just breathtaking.”

The foundation “Sophie’s Squad” was created. Their mission: to raise awareness for mental illness and provide resources for youth athletes who may be struggling such as Sophie was. Their hashtag was #hockeyhitsback.

As Sophie’s story spread, and news of the event hit the airwaves, Hughes’ phone started ringing. Venues from around the state wanted to host a Sophie’s Squad event to help raise money for the foundation.

“We have so many teams that want us to do it that we will be doing a drawing for five more games this winter,” Hughes said.

The money will go to whatever the Wieland family wishes. They raised more than $10,000 Nov. 11 and have set up a website where those who want to support the cause can make a donation or buy Sophie’s Squad merchandise.

Next summer they are planning a keynote event at the National Sports Center. Hughes said those involved are committed to the cause.

“We are learning as we go,” he said. “But we hit a grand slam on Nov. 11. It went really well.”

In the meantime, the Sartell community, Wieland family and hockey community as a whole continues to mourn the loss of Sophie.

Sophie’s Squad hopes to help make sure young athletes know there is help out there, and it is okay to talk to others about their struggles. 

“I think the main thing is people feel afraid to talk about it,” Aimee Wieland, Sophie’s mother, told Fox9 News. “For our daughter unfortunately didn’t feel like she could talk to anybody about it. She kept it to herself and didn’t tell anybody. We just want to let people know that there’s always somebody out there that they can talk to or reach out to. And always asking people to be kind and nice to people.”

“It’s just so sad,” said Hughes. “If she could have just talked to one person, who knows. It’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for all of us.”

But there is hope through Sophie’s memory.

“We can help,” said Hughes. “We have to help. We have to do what we can to make sure this does not happen to someone else.”

To donate to Sophie’s Squad, visit www.sophiessquad.org.

Upcoming Sophie Squad Games:

 

December 16

Sophie's Squad will be at Thaler Ice Arena as the Mound Westonka White Hawks take on the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders. JV at 5:00 and Varsity at 7:00. Pop out in TEAL for an awesome night.

This will be an exciting East vs. West matchup between two great teams. Help us raise awareness that mental health is just as important as physical health.

 

December 23

Centennial/SLP will host Hill Murray Girls Hockey in a Hockey Hits Back event! Turn out in teal. Buy Sophie's Squad Merchandise. Play Chuck a Puck for MN Wild Tickets. 

JV at 5:00 and Varsity at 7:00

Support Girls High School Hockey, raise awareness for the importance of mental health, and have a fun night at the rink.

  • All that matters

  • 04/19/2018, 11:00am CDT , By Bryan Zollman, Let's Play Hockey
  • The tragedy that struck the Humboldt Broncos provides everyone with a valuable lesson in perspective
  • Read More
  • The New Bosses

  • 11/02/2017, 6:45am CDT , By Andrew Vitalis
  • Former University of Minnesota players and assistant coaches Nadine Muzerall and Grant Potulny are now the head coaches at Ohio State and Northern Michigan, respectively
  • Read More
  • From college to the NHL

  • 04/03/2018, 3:30pm CDT , By Kevin Kurtt - Let's Play Hockey Editor
  • Over 300 former U.S. college players appeared in the NHL during the 2017-18 regular season
  • Read More
  • Teaching Mites and Squirts

  • 02/26/2019, 10:45am CST , By John Russo, Let's Play Hockey Columnist
  • There are a number of actions that should guide all on-ice activities with Mites & Squirts
  • Read More

Tag(s): State Of Hockey