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.

1 comment:

1947 said...

Congratulations Bryan! I played hockey with you one Wednesday morning in Westport when you were trying to keep in shape and looking for an offer. I said "Who is that guy he is pretty good". Well I checked out the web and I soon found out why! What a career. All the very best in your future and maybe some day when your back we'll meet up again on the Rideau Lakes.