|Photo by Kathryn Hedrick|
“I think Mark did a great job. He had a lot of pressure coming off a Calder Cup championship team (in 2009), and it was his first AHL job as a head coach. There was a lot of pressure on him and he handled it excellent - he did the right things. He let the guys in the dressing room, run the dressing room, and if we had problems, we tried to take care of it ourselves and if not, then we went to him. Like I said though, there wasn't too many problems this year.”
“The last few years they have been right at the top (in attendance), and they were again this year. It is almost like an NHL city; you can’t go anywhere without somebody noticing you,” said Helmer. “During the regular season, I think the building fits, 10,500 or 10,800 and almost every game you are playing in front of that. They expect you to win every night too. They expect a lot out of you, but that’s kind of a good pressure too, it makes you want to perform every night, every shift that you are on the ice. You look at the final game, Game 6, and there were 11,000 people in that building and I had goose bumps. They are very passionate and they want to have a winning team there.”
“It was funny, there was probably about ten seconds left and I had the puck in my corner and I remember looking up, the crowd was going crazy. The next thing I know, I look over and guys are coming off the bench and I was like, there’s still five seconds left! By that time though, it was over and it’s ‘let the celebration begin’. What a big thrill it was for me to do it in front of our home fans; it hasn’t been done in almost 30 years there and obviously to have my family there, it was pretty special.”
“Then we go out in the first period in Game 3 and we’re down 3-1. It was funny though because in between the first and second, we knew we were going to win; not one guy was getting excited in between the periods, everyone was really positive and obviously we went out and proved that. From there on, we just knew we were going to win. It was a really good feeling and every guy had that exact same feeling. It was a lot of fun and a good experience to go through something like that.”
A big fan of the game himself, I asked Bryan if having an all-star NHL defenceman like Ray Bourque cheering on the Bears was a source of inspiration for the team.
|Photo by Kathryn Hedrick|
Hershey had an abundance of talent on their roster this season; with players like Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin at the top of the AHL in scoring during the regular season and the playoffs, and Chris Bourque was the MVP in the Calder Cup Final. World Junior Gold medalist John Carlson also emerged as an NHL calibre defenceman in his rookie season with the Bears. I asked Helmer to share his thoughts about some of his other teammates too.
“Then you have guys like Mathieu Perreault, you could go down the list... A guy like Greg Amadio - he didn’t play every game in the playoffs but was a big part of our team, blocking shots when he’d get a chance in a game; he played a big part in our dressing room. Someone that really stepped up was Andrew Joudrey, and Andrew Gordon too, two guys that you wouldn’t expect, that are pretty quiet guys, started to take on a different type of role, where they said stuff in the dressing room - a leadership role. It just trickled down, it was amazing, and there were different guys at different times. When you have that kind of chemistry and different guys step up in your dressing room, it leads onto the ice. A guy like Boyd Kane too, he’s been through this before as a captain on two Calder Cup teams.”
“For myself, I had a lot of guys that could easily have been the captain on our team, it made my job a lot easier,” Helmer said with a laugh.
A free agent this summer, Helmer intends to continue his hockey career. He has spoken with the Bears about a return to Hershey, but he realizes that they have to assess the organization before they begin talking about a new contract. An important factor for Helmer is his family. A dedicated father and husband, getting a contract done soon will allow the family time to prepare for the upcoming school year.
“I am hoping (to return to Hershey), they said they still have an interest but nothing’s been done yet. Obviously, they are trying to get their big players signed. I told them that I would like to play another year there, or another two, but I guess we’ll see. If not, I’ll try to catch on with another team because I am close to breaking the all-time defenceman scoring record and I’m eighteen games away from a thousand, which would be pretty cool in the AHL. I still have the passion to play.”
“This part is kind of hard you know, the waiting around,” said Helmer. “Once you sign somewhere, or I sign in Hershey, we have to get back there towards the end of August, which doesn’t give us much time. Like I said, I still love the game and I still love to play; I want to play forever if I could!”
With that, we wrapped up our conversation about Bryan’s thoughts on the 2010 Hershey Bears and their second consecutive Calder Cup title. When he said he would play forever if he could, I let him know that all of his fans would watch him forever too if we could. A talented player and a great role model, when his playing career does conclude, Bryan will have one more stop on his hockey journey; joining the other hockey legends in the American Hockey League’s Hall of Fame.
*A very special and a huge THANK YOU goes out to Kathryn Hedrick (khedrick301 on Flickr.com), for sharing her wonderful photos of Bryan with The Voice of Sport.com. To see more of her amazing photo work, drop by her page on Flickr.com. Thanks again Kathryn! http://www.flickr.com/photos/khedrick301/