Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bryan Helmer - A Fan of the Game

This article is in the November edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission from the editors - Thanks Jack and Sue! Photo by Dinur on flickr...

A very special Thank You to the Hershey Bears for setting up the interview and of course, Bryan Helmer, for sharing his thoughts and taking the time to speak with Main Street/The Voice of Sport.
THANKS Bryan!!

Bryan Helmer - A Fan of the Game

For generations, hockey legends like Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Guy Lafleur and Larry Robinson have inspired youngsters to lace up the skates and head for their backyard and local rinks, hoping one day to join their idols in the National Hockey League. Equally inspiring is the career of Winchester native and American Hockey League veteran Bryan Helmer, a perfect example of the modern day Canadian dream, the dream of playing hockey professionally.

The two-time Calder Cup champion and captain of the Hershey Bears is set to begin his 17th season playing professionally and he has enjoyed every minute of his career, which includes 146 games in the NHL with several teams and more then 900 games in the AHL. Last season, at 36-years of age, his reward for his dedication to the game, besides being captain of Team Canada at the AHL all-star game, was to get the call to return to the NHL for the first time since 2004, this time with the Washington Capitals.

“I wanted to get back, but I never thought that I would,” said Helmer from his home in Hershey Pennsylvania. “When I was in the NHL my son was too young to remember and he was always going over the years, Dad when are you going to get called up? I was like, I’m trying son... and it happened. It was a big thrill to get back there. Now my son realizes that I made it to the NHL and he will remember that.”

Playing with the Capitals was not only personally rewarding for Helmer, it also proved a source of inspiration for his Hershey teammates; perhaps their NHL dreams would come true as well.

“After I got called up and then sent back down, there were a lot of guys that got inspired by it,” recalled Helmer. “A lot of guys kept asking me why I wasn’t in Europe. I told them I always had that dream of making it back to the NHL. Once I did, that obviously gave them inspiration, that maybe they should stay over here.”

With sixteen seasons of hockey behind him, reporters are asking if coaching is in his future, but for now, Helmer is concentrating on his playing career and plans to do so for as long as he can. His tenure as a hockey veteran has made him a great leader in the locker room and he has no problems giving advice to the younger players as captain of the Hershey Bears.

“I love giving advice to the young guys and I love being around them,” said Helmer. “That’s why obviously I am still playing. I am definitely vocal in the dressing room if guys want advice, I will give it. Sometimes if they don’t want it, I will still give it! I enjoy my job and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.”

As a part of the Washington organization, returning to the NHL in a city that has seen a tremendous resurgence in popularity was not lost on Helmer; besides playing professionally, Helmer admits he is a passionate fan of the game.

“Getting called up to Washington and playing with Ovechkin, he’s the best player in the world and I got to play with him. It’s a thrill when you see it that way; I am a big fan of the game too.”

Sometimes the path to your dream is a long and winding road that takes you to unexpected places. Priorities may change but the goal remains the same. For Bryan Helmer, every twist and turn has been worth it. He has achieved goals that others only dream of, all the while, being a true fan of the game. Have a great sports day everyone.

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