Monday, January 31, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Trip to All-Star Game an Important Lesson for Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson Represented the
Ottawa Senators at the 2011 All-Star Game
(Photo by TVOS)
The Ottawa Senators were represented at the 2011 All-Star game in Raleigh, North Carolina by sophomore defenceman Erik Karlsson. While many hockey fans outside of the nation's capital wondered, "Who is Erik Karlsson?" His offensive abilities has certainly caught the attention of opposition coaches and fellow NHL players.

Read the full article about Karlsson's first all-star appearance at The Hockey Writers

Sunday, January 23, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Clouston and Murray Will Remain In Place Until Season Ends

As the Ottawa Senators continued to fall in the NHL standings, all eyes turned to team owner Eugene Melnyk. In the final year of their contracts, would head coach Cory Clouston and GM Bryan Murray stay at their posts for much longer? Considering Melnyk expected his team to be in the hunt for the Stanley Cup this year, his silence was surprising...

Last night, veteran Ottawa Sun sports columnist Bruce Garrioch accomplished what many considered impossible - he reached Melnyk and discovered that no changes will happen in Ottawa. Clouston and Murray will remain until the end of the season. As the losses add up, selling "hope for the future" to the season ticket holders will prove to be difficult.

Read the full article at The Hockey Writers

Friday, January 21, 2011

AHL Veteran Bryan Helmer Discusses Oklahoma And His Record Breaking Night With The Voice Of Sport

AHL Veteran Bryan Helmer Was
Reunited With Hershey Teammate
Alex Giroux in Oklahoma City
(Kathryn Hedrick/Flickr)
After spending the entire summer and the first half of the hockey season waiting for a contract offer, AHL veteran Bryan Helmer finally got the call he was waiting for in early January - he was on his way back to the league with the Oklahoma City Barons.

Only seven points away from becoming the all-time points leader for defencemen in the AHL, the countdown to John Slaney’s 519 career points was on... Bryan’s family, friends, and fans did not have to wait long for the record to fall. On January 13th, in his fourth game with the Oklahoma City Barons, he scored two goals and added an assist in a 7-2 win over the Peoria Rivermen; Helmer tied and surpassed Slaney’s record all in one night and the AHL record book needed a rewrite.

“It’s been crazy, I couldn’t believe how quickly I got the record,” Helmer said on the phone from Rockford where the Barons were preparing for a Friday evening match-up against the IceHogs. “It’s been amazing!”

“It really hasn’t sunk in for me yet, it may take until the summer. It’s funny though, my GM down here came up to me the other day and said, ‘The Hockey Hall of Fame called and they want some of your stuff from when you got the record’ and I was like, what? That’s pretty cool!”

It is tough joining a new organization, especially half-way through a season, as teams have already battled their way through the first 40 games of the schedule, but Helmer found some familiar faces on the Barons roster when he arrived. He is settling in and happy with his teammates, he is also enjoying his time in Oklahoma City as well.

“I played with Alex Giroux (in Hershey) and I knew the coach here (Todd Nelson), and the guys made me feel right at home as soon as I got here,” Helmer explained. “It’s a young team and a team that hasn’t won in the past, but I think they are starting to get that winning feeling because as of late, we have been doing really well - It’s a good fit for me. I had never been to Oklahoma City, so when I got there, I saw that it is a very nice city and they have a really nice rink too, they’ve done a good job here.”

Bryan Helmer
Oklahoma City Barons
(Steven Christy Photography)
A three-time Calder Cup champion, Helmer brings veteran leadership and a never-quit attitude to the Barons. While he is new to the team, he is ready to step in as a leader when it is required and help the team make a push for a playoff position. The Barons are third in the AHL’s West Division, only three points behind the division leading Rivermen. With 11 points in his first eight games, he has already made an impact on the ice and not surprisingly, in the dressing room too.

“It’s funny, after the second game I played; I kind of stood up and said some stuff. I was like, I haven’t been here very long, and I don’t know if I should do this but I’m going to do it anyways. I’m a competitive guy and I want to win, so it just kind of came out of me. As soon as I got here, the coaches said do what you have to and if you have to say something, say it because these guys will listen to you. It’s a young group but they definitely listen and they definitely want to win. It’s amazing in our division how tight it is, you get on a little roll here and we could be right back up there in first place.”

While he is enjoying Oklahoma City, his teammates on the Barons, and the opportunity to be back on the ice, there is a business side to the game of hockey. Helmer is on a 25-game PTO contract and so his wife Pam and two children are still in Ontario. A dedicated husband and father, it can be tough at times to be so far from home.

“I signed a 25-game tryout, so they have 25 games to decide what they want to do. If something doesn’t happen, then I am a free agent again and maybe I can sign with someone else.”

“It’s definitely hard I can tell you that,” explained Bryan. “This is the first time we have done something like this. Calling home and hearing the kids crying because I’m not there is pretty tough - they seem to really miss me when they go to bed, but it would be too hard to pull them out of school now and so we decided we’d try to get through this. Pam has been great and very supportive!”

Now that Helmer has surpassed John Slaney’s career point mark, there is another milestone within reach; 1,000 career games in the AHL. (Bryan is a wonderful guy and will never say this himself, so I will... In the 75-year history in the AHL, his accomplishments are becoming legendary - There is no doubt in my mind that when he hangs up his skates, he will be heading to the AHL Hall of Fame!)

“I am definitely looking forward to that (the 1,000th game). I worked it out and I think it is going to happen in Abbotsford. I wish it could happen at home in Oklahoma City but I just want to get it, no matter where it happens. It will be a huge milestone, there are only six other guys that have played 1,000 games in the American League, so it’s pretty cool.”

And how about receiving an invite to join the AHL Hall of Fame I asked?

“Well, I mean, it would be pretty cool - just to be in a group like that. Where I came from out of Tier II Junior, it’s pretty neat. It would definitely be an accomplishment. I always tell young guys, when they think that they are going to be done; I had a lots of people tell me to come back to my hometown, play Junior B there. I was like, no, I’m just going to stay in Wellington, play another year and see what happens. Thank God I did because it worked out for me.”

Bryan Arrives In Chesterville, Ontario
With The Calder Cup
(August 2010 - Photo TVOS)
Interviews with Bryan here at The Voice of Sport always receive a tremendous amount of support from hockey fans in Hershey and Washington (Thanks Emily and Kathryn for spreading the word), and I always share messages and comments from Bears fans with him. While there is obviously a business side to professional hockey as I have mentioned, there is also a personal side too; Bryan and his family enjoyed their time as part of the Hershey Bears family.

“I had two great years there and I met a lot of nice people. I’ve gotten a lot of emails, text messages and voice mails from a lot of people in Hershey. I have always said for the last two years, that they are the best fans in the AHL and I still stand by that. To come out and support the team the way they did, it’s pretty impressive. I definitely miss that part, but now it’s a new chapter in my hockey career and I’m moving on, but definitely, the last two years were great years in my career and in my life. I definitely want to say hello to everyone down in Hershey!”

Heading into tonight’s game against Rockford, Bryan has 524 career points and is ten games away from 1,000 career games in the AHL. With his point totals so far this season, I suggested maybe he should go for 600 career points - he laughed but didn’t say no...

I often tell people that there are still role models in the sports world and that Bryan Helmer is at the top of the list - Congratulations Bryan on your return to the AHL and your record-breaking performances!

As I work on editing this article, the Barons game is underway and Bryan has an assist on the first goal for Oklahoma City... Are you sure you are not aiming for 600 points?

Way to go Bryan!!

Image Resources:
Steven Christy Photography

Kathryn Hedrick

Thank you Steven and Kathryn!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Theo Fleury and "Ask the Alumni"

Theoren Fleury
(NHL Alumni Association)
This month's guest for my "Ask the Alumni" series at The Hockey Writers is Calgary Flames legend and best-selling author Theoren Fleury. We discuss coming into the NHL with the Calgary Flames in 1989, representing Canada at International tournaments, his best-selling autobiography, and his speaking engagements. Plus, he answers the questions submitted by THW readers!

Read my interview with Theo Fleury at The Hockey Writers

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oh Canada - Be Proud Of Silver At The World Junior Championship!

This article was first published in the January 19th edition of Main Street Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Magazine delivered right to your inbox.

A few weeks have passed since the annual World Junior Championship, and with the sky firmly in place above us (as in, the sky is not falling), perhaps it is a good time to discuss Canada’s silver medal at the tournament. The fact that Team Canada came home with a silver medal is not something to be scoffed at, or called the “biggest meltdown in Canadian hockey history”, or any of the other comments that emerged after Russia stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Canadians by a 5-3 score in the gold medal game.

Sometimes the media-hype machine can work too well - we have been sold on the “this is our game” ad campaign, when in fact, hockey belongs to the world now. Sure, Canada excels at the sport and is in the hunt for gold on most occasions, but we should embrace the fact that the game of hockey is equally cherished in many other nations throughout the world. While our young men dream of winning the Stanley Cup, many of the youngsters growing up in other countries dream of wearing their national colours at the Olympics or World Championship. Let’s give the other hockey nations some credit - they have grown the game and can give Canada a good fight for the gold; that is a good thing!

One problem that hockey fans do not seem to realize is that in the junior tournament, there are age restrictions. Young men graduate out of the tournament because they have reached the age maximum or in the case of many Canadian 18-20-year olds, they have already moved on to the National Hockey League. Jeff Skinner (18) is in Carolina leading all NHL rookies with 37 points, Taylor Hall (19) is 3rd in rookie scoring with 27 points in Edmonton, and Tyler Seguin (18) has 16 points with the Boston Bruins. Many of Canada’s top players are already in the NHL and yet the loss at the World Junior Championship is supposed to be a national crisis.

Heading into this year’s World Junior Championship, with most of last year’s gold medal team returning, Team USA were the favourites to win it all again. As they discovered, once these tournaments head into the elimination round, anything can happen. It is not a seven game series like the NHL, it is loser goes home, winner keeps playing - it is as simple as that. Was the way the game was lost disappointing - certainly. Is it time to hold parliamentary debates about the state of “our” game - no, it is not.

We have wrapped our national identity in a tournament played by 17 and 18-year old kids. Perhaps part of the problem is the fact that many casual hockey fans tune in for this tournament believing the media-hype and expect too much from these young men. For the hockey fans that watch junior games regularly, these things happen - mistakes happen; it is the reality of learning the game at an elite level.

Unfortunately, this is a topic I have touched on before and most likely will again - the game of hockey belongs to the world now. We should embrace and support our teams, not point fingers and play the blame game. It is a shame when silver is considered a disgrace...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Business Garfoose" Visits Ottawa's Museum Of Nature!

When deciding how to celebrate the 300th posting here at The Voice of Sport, "Business Garfoose" contacted me, saying he was ready for another adventure as part of our ongoing mission to spread the word about all things Garfoose!!

The real Garfoose is a half-giraffe/half moose that lives with MLB pitcher and best-selling author Dirk Hayhurst. "Business Garfoose" is a distant relative that strayed from the flock and entered the world of high finance and corporate takeovers... He has gone shopping in Toronto and visited Parliament Hill in Ottawa with a very special message.

Today's Adventure: "Business Garfoose" visits Ottawa's Museum of Nature!
"Business Garfoose" Arrives At The Museum
"Business Garfoose" Enjoys The Moose
Carved Into The Stone
Much Like "Where's Waldo?"
Can You Spot BG?
"Have You Ever Thought About Investing?"
"Business Garfoose" Tells His New Friend
About How Awesome Dirk Hayhurst Is!!
This Guy Wasn't Much For Conversation!

"Business Garfoose" Finds A Distant Relative,
His Cousin George!

Smile For The Camera George...
Okay, Don't then...
My Antlers are Bigger Than Yours!
Home On The Range!
Ottawa's Museum Of Nature Is A
Beautiful Place To Visit!
Until We Meet Again! "Business Garfoose"
Was Off To Purchase Another
Small Country...

Monday, January 17, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: AHL or NHL - What's Best For Sens Prospect Robin Lehner?

The plan heading into the season for Ottawa Senators prospect Robin Lehner was to have the young goaltender see as much action in the American Hockey League as possible this year, giving the first-year professional an opportunity to learn the game at the next level. Unfortunately, with Pascal Leclaire's lingering injuries, Lehner has spent the season travelling between Binghamton and Ottawa, playing with the Binghamton Senators, and sitting on the bench in Ottawa.

As the Senators fall further out of the playoff picture, is it time to see what Lehner can do at the NHL level? Is he a better option than Brian Elliott at this point?

Read the full article at The Hockey Writers

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bryan Helmer Becomes The All-Time Leading Scorer For AHL Defencemen

With His 520th Career Point Tonight,
 Bryan Helmer Becomes The All-Time Scoring Leader
For Defencemen In The AHL
(Photo by Kathryn Hedrick/Flickr)
Many of the greatest hockey players in the storied history of the game have stepped on the ice in the 75 years of the American Hockey League - So many legends of the game, so many stories, and so many magical moments. On Thursday evening, hockey fans witnessed another magical moment as Winchester, Ontario native Bryan Helmer became the all-time leader for career points by a defenceman in the league.

The previous record of 519 points belonged to John Slaney, set in his final season (2006-07). Helmer passed Slaney’s career mark on Thursday with two goals and an assist, including the game winner, as the Oklahoma City Barons defeated the Peoria Rivermen by a 7-2 score.

What makes the record more incredible is the fact that until last week, Helmer was at his home in Westport, Ontario waiting for a contract offer. A victim of the AHL and NHL youth movement, as well as the AHL’s veteran rule, which limits the number of players with more than 250 games experience on each team, all Helmer could do was stay prepared and wait.

The summer came and went, and yet there were still no concrete offers on the table. Speaking with Bryan in September about his contract situation, the first thing on his mind was getting his family settled.

“This is something new,” Bryan said at the time. “Usually, I have been able to get a deal done at the end of July; this is the longest I have ever been without a contract. The hardest thing for me is obviously my family. The kids are asking where they will be going to school and where we are going to be. It’s hard when you hear them asking questions like that, it gets a little stressful.”

Unfortunately, the wait continued and Helmer ended 2010 at home, skating as often as possible, working out in the gym - he joked that he had met a lot more of his neighbours because Westport is usually his summer home. While he was anxious to resume his hockey career, the love and support of his family and friends helped him stay positive.

“I am doing everything I can,” Bryan said in December. “Skating by myself, skating any time I can get ice time here in Westport. I also played in a police tournament in Smith Falls, Ontario. One of my buddies is with the police force and he asked me to play. I was like, ‘I’m not a police officer’ but he said, ‘Your dad was, that’s close enough!’”

He knew he would be facing a decision about his hockey career in 2011. Keep trying for the AHL, look for a spot in the ECHL, or head over to Europe to get some games in this season and try for the AHL next year? All the while, he knew he was only six points away from matching the milestone mark for career points by a defenceman. The decision to play elsewhere would not be an easy one. In early January, I received an email letting me know that Bryan was trying out for the Oklahoma City Barons, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. When he signed with the Barons last Friday, the chase for 520 career points was on!

Bryan In August 2010
With The Calder Cup
Now that he is the all-time scoring leader for defencemen in the AHL, the next career milestone for Helmer inches closer as well. With 14 more games, the three-time Calder Cup champion becomes the seventh player in the history of the league to reach the 1,000-game plateau. That will be another night of celebration in my household, and I am sure in many others as well.

Congratulations Bryan!! You have worked hard to reach this milestone; you love playing the game and tonight you made hockey history!! The doors to the AHL Hall of Fame are wide open and your place amongst the greats is waiting.

I would like to close this article with some thoughts from my very first interview with Bryan. It described the situation at the time and strikes me as appropriate again tonight.

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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Capital City Condors - A Tremendous Hockey Program For Ottawa Children With Special Needs

Ryan and Isaac
This article first appeared in the January 2011 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper.

As Lachute, Quebec prepares to host the 33rd edition of their annual hockey tournament, I thought a great way to start 2011 here at Main Street would be to share an inspirational hockey story. Through my work at The Hockey Writers, I discovered the Capital City Condors - A hockey program in Ottawa for children with physical and learning disabilities. It is a truly remarkable team, helping children with special needs explore their love of hockey as they discover a newfound confidence off the ice.

Growing up in a country with a rich hockey history, we often take for granted that we can lace up our skates, join our local team and dream about playing in the NHL one day. For some of us, the dream ends abruptly with the realization that you do not skate very well - and never will (me for example!), but the opportunity is there. What if your child had a disability and was not eligible to play on the local team, in love with the game but having to remain on the sidelines watching their brothers and sisters play? For Ottawa area kids, that all changed three years ago thanks to Jim and Shana Perkins.

“The success of the Condors is not how great these kids become on the ice,” Jim Perkins explained. “It is being part of a team, having a team jersey with their name and their favourite number on it. It is all about as much of their dream as possible coming true. Some of them will make a lot of progress (on the ice), we have seen that, and some of them won’t, but that’s okay.”

“We get so much out of this, the interaction with the kids and their parents. Many of these parents are like heroes to us – the tenderness that they demonstrate to their kids. It has been really moving for us. It is a great thing to be involved in, a ton of work, but we get a lot out of it in return. This isn’t just a team, it is a community.”

In their first year, Jim and Shana welcomed three children into the Condors program, now there are 40 participants and a waiting list. They would like to see the program expand in Ottawa and perhaps into Gatineau as well. The Capital City Condors fall under the umbrella of Special Hockey, an international organization dedicated to enriching the lives of special needs children through hockey. Besides playing and practising locally, they take part in a tournament each year.

Matt Carkner and Zachary

“Last year we went to our first tournament in Orangeville, Ontario and there were around fifty teams there,” Perkins said. “This year’s tournament is in Marlborough, Massachusetts and we are going to go down and participate in that. They do these up right too, they march each team in and they have team flags; it is done really, really well.”

“The following year, the tournament is in London, England, 2013 is in Kitchener, Ontario and we have put a bid in for 2014 to host the event here in Ottawa. They like to jump back and forth between Canada and the US and every fifth year it is London.”

With the help of a tremendous group of volunteers, which includes Ottawa Senators defenceman Matt Carkner, Jim and Shana Perkins are helping to enrich the lives of these children through hockey; it is a truly inspirational program.

You can find more information about the Capital City Condors at their website:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Changes Behind The Bench In 2011-2012 For Senators?

A UFA This Summer, Fan Favourite Jarkko Ruutu Could Be
On The Move If Sens Keep Struggling.
(Photo TVOS)
Last week, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray spoke with the team and the coaching staff about finding a more consistent effort in the second half of the season. His message to all - he's not happy, the organization is not happy and the fans are not happy. Changes are coming if the losing continues.

If the team sinks further in the standings, Murray is prepared to shed salary at the trade deadline and a coaching change looms on the horizon. If Bryan Murray does indeed step behind the bench for the remainder of the season as many fans expect, who is available to coach the Senators for the 2011-2012 season?

Read the full article at The Hockey Writers

Friday, January 7, 2011

AHL Veteran Bryan Helmer To Sign With Oklahoma City Barons

Andrew and Bryan with the Calder Cup - August 2010
Word filtered through to me earlier this week, but not wanting to reveal any secrets, I had to sit on this information for a few days...

AHL veteran and friend of TVOS, Bryan Helmer, is back in the American Hockey League, perhaps as early as tonight - with the Oklahoma City Barons, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.

The three-time Calder Cup champion was without a contract this season, but he has been in Oklahoma to practise with the team for the past week. NewsOK is reporting today that a contract offer is forthcoming for the veteran defenseman.

The Barons just sent out a press release confirming that Helmer will be suiting up with the Barons.

“He’s a guy that can play the power play and do a lot of things for us,” Barons head coach Todd Nelson told NewsOK. “He’s got an impressive resume.”

Bryan has been very supportive of my career and The Voice of Sport, and I can honestly say he is the true definition of the phrase role model. A dedicated father and teammate, he remained positive even though his hockey career was on hold. Speaking with him while he waited for a contract offer, it was very clear that Bryan's passion for hockey had not diminished at all and he was ready to embrace any new challenges that came his way.

By joining the Barons, Helmer can continue his quest to reach two very important career milestones: 1,000 games played in the AHL (he has hit the ice in 982 games) and John Slaney's career point total for a defenseman. Helmer is six points away from reaching Slaney's 519 career points.

“I still have the drive to play,” Helmer said when we spoke at the end of November for an article at The Hockey Writers. “But that (Slaney’s 519 points) is really making me want to play; I’d also love to win another championship.”

TVOS will be speaking with Bryan in the near future (he is a little busy right now!) so keep an eye out for more information on his return to the AHL here at The Voice of Sport.

Congratulations Bryan!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Playoff Hopes Fade in Ottawa - Murray Meets With Media

The clock is ticking on Ottawa's
playoff chances
Sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and in the midst of another losing streak, Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray met with the Ottawa media today to discuss his team and head coach Cory Clouston. Murray made it clear he is "not happy" with his team's performance and when asked if Clouston will finish the season he said, "I can't answer that question because I don't know."

Read the full article at The Hockey Writers

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good Luck To The Garfoose!!

When MLB relief pitcher and best-selling author Dirk Hayhurst was heading for shoulder surgery last year, I gathered up a group of friends to wish The Garfoose good luck. The idea quickly took-off and many "Garfooslings" sent along similar pictures to cheer up our friend from Twitter...

Yesterday, Hayhurst wrote an eloquent good-bye to Blue Jays fans at his website, as he revealed he will not be back with the team for the 2011 season. A great friend to all his Garfooslings and a supporter of The Voice of Sport, I had to gather up the gang once again to say "Good Luck Dirk" - We are all rooting for you!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Time For Ottawa To Call-Up Corey Locke And Bobby Butler

The Ottawa Senators have struggled to score goals all season and a lottery pick is becoming more realistic than a playoff position. With so many under-performing top-six forwards this season, why is the leading scorer in the AHL (Corey Locke) and one of their top prospects (Bobby Butler) still sitting in Binghamton and not getting an opportunity to shine in the NHL?

It is time for the offensively challenged Senators to audition Corey Locke and Bobby Butler - Read the full article at The Hockey Writers