Sunday, January 05, 2014


Helmer Begins His Coaching Career

I went into the Peterborough Petes dressing room area after their recent game  against the Belleville Bulls to search out my friend Bryan Helmer. He was immersed in post-game discussions with various team officials, including Coach Jody Hull.


I basically dragged Helmer out of the room, and down the hall past the curtain which keeps the public away from the players and management. At that point, he was overwhelmed by the Wellington delegation waiting for him: the Baitleys, and the Lavenders, the Hursts, the Wakefields, and the Benways. As per usual, Helmer lit up in a huge smile as he proceeded to share hugs with everyone. That was his style when he played for the Dukes, and it hasn’t changed one iota. Without question, he remains the most popular Duke ever. End of discussion, as my wife is wont to say, when I am trying to help her understand the real truth about something.


                                              Bryan Helmer, behind the Petes Bench
Bryan Helmer is in his first year behind the bench as the assistant coach of the OHL Peterborough Petes. There are many of us who think that the Petes made a good choice when they called the former Duke. Coach Hull agreed. “I have known Bryan through hockey for a long time. I played for 16 years, and I know he played a little longer, over 20 years. The length of time that he has been in the game, and how he got there helped us make a decision. You know he went from the Dukes right into the American Hockey League”.


I asked Hull about Helmer’s transition from the bench to the shirt and tie. “No problem there. A mutual friend, and former coach alerted me to Bryan’s situation. The transition has been great.”


Helmer is really enjoying the challenge. “I really wasn’t expecting this. But when I got the call from Jody, I responded immediately. In my role as the person responsible for the defense, I hope I can contribute. That’s the position I played my whole life.”


Regarding the game against the Belleville Bulls, both Helmer and Hull reiterated the same view. “They had a really tough game the night before in Niagara. They lost one of their key players. So they were not really sharp against us. And we played well.”


Hull has been with the Petes since the 2005-2006 season. He moved up to the head coaching assignment last season. As an NHL player, Hull saw a lot of North America. He played for 12 teams, including the Whalers, the Rangers, the Senators, the Panthers, the Lightning and the Flyers at the NHL level. In all, he played 831 games at the highest level, racking up 261 points.




Helmer has played for 16 teams since turning pro in 1993. He had stints with the Capitals, Blues, Coyotes, and Canucks, at the NHL level. He did contemplate retirement on a couple of occasions over the past few years, but officially hung up the skates last spring. He will be 42 in July.


If one were to scan columns appearing in The Times over the years about Bryan Helmer, one would realize that the same theme exists year after year: a man of heart, character, dignity, and fierce determination. A hockey guy, through and through. Helmer spent hours in his professional career, visiting hospitals and schools, perking up the lives of the less fortunate.


There will be a tribute to Bryan Helmer at the DukeDome on Friday, January 17th. Thankfully, the Petes do not play that evening! Former teammate Tod Lavender expects fourteen of “Hermie’s” former mates to be on hand. Dukes entertain Trenton that evening. Not to miss.



James Hurst

January 5, 2014 



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