While Tyler Kennedy skated around the Joe Louis Arena with the Stanley Cup above his shoulders in celebration on Friday night, another Sault Ste Marie native was busy leading his team to the AHL championship for the second time in his career. In front of a sell-out crowd at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, Capitan Bryan Helmer lifted the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup in celebration as his Hershey Bears defeated the Manitoba Moose 4-1 in game six to win the best of seven series 4-2. The teams split the first two games in Winnipeg; the Bears then won two of three on home ice before returning to Winnipeg for game six. The Cup win is Hershey’s tenth as a franchise and an AHL record.
Born on July 15th, 1972, the right shooting Helmer has not only established himself as a highly valuable defenseman in the AHL, but as a reliable veteran, when called upon by the NHL teams affiliated with the AHL. Unfortunately, Helmer has been a victim of the numbers game at the NHL level, often being the seventh or eighth defenseman on the depth chart. While every player dreams of the NHL, Helmer has carved out a highly impressive and respectable career in the AHL. His resume reads like a road map of the hockey world with stops in Hershey, San Antonio, Grand Rapids, Springfield, Winnipeg, Worcester and Albany. His first Calder Cup win came with the Albany River Rats in 1995.
At thirty-six years old, Helmer became Captain of the Hershey Bears after signing with the team last summer. He played in 63 games for Hershey this season, scoring 2 goals and 27 points and filled in admirably when called up to the Washington Capitals for twelve games, assisting on three goals. At the 2009 AHL All-Star game, Helmer was Captain of his team, due in large part to his perseverance and dedication to the sport as well as the respect he has earned during his career from his fellow players.
Helmer has amassed 114 goals and 367 assists during his lengthy career in the AHL. He is twelfth in AHL history for career games played at 911. He has also been on the ice for 146 career NHL games with the Coyotes, Blues, Canucks and Capitals and acquiring 8 goals and 26 points along the way.
The Stanley Cup is one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports, but the Calder Cup has an equally storied history. Awarded to the winner of the AHL playoffs since 1937 and named after Frank Calder, the first President of the NHL, many hockey legends have their name on the trophy. Johnny Bower, Andy Bathgate, Al Arbour, Larry Robinson and Patrick Roy are just some of the twenty-seven Hall of Fame members that have lifted the cup in victory.
** This article was published in the Sault Star in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario**