Wednesday, February 01, 2017


Bryan Helmer-Quality Guy.

Helmer 'surprised, emotional' at Hall of Fame selection

By Paul Svoboda, The Intelligencer


In 1993, when Bryan Helmer inked his first professional contract in the American Hockey League, he was thrilled to receive a $2,500 signing bonus.
Twenty-four years later, he's one of the newest members of the AHL Hall of Fame.

The former Wellington Dukes defenceman — whose jersey No. 44 was retired in 2014 by the Junior A hockey club — was enshrined in the Class of 2017 with ceremonies held during the recent AHL All-Star Classic in Allentown, PA.
Helmer, 44, now vice-president of hockey operations for the AHL Hershey Bears, spoke to The Intelligencer on Wednesday.

Here's the Q and A:

Q: What do you recall about your pro debut?
Helmer: “I remember before I played my first AHL game for Albany in Rochester against the Americans and I think I'd signed just a couple of days before. They gave me $2,500 to sign. I called my dad and told him. Then, I found out the other guys got $5,000 or $7,500 to sign. But, coming from Wellington and a Tier II junior team, I would've signed for anything.”
Q: What was your initial reaction upon learning of your Hall of Fame selection?
Helmer: “I was very surprised. To be honest, I didn't expect it. It caught me off guard. I got a little emotional when I told my family. It was a nice feeling.”
Q: What do you recall about playing four years (1989-93) with the Dukes in Wellington?
Helmer: "The old Duke Dome was really special and the Wellington fans were so passionate. That place really rocked in the playoffs. It was great for me, at 17, I billeted with the Lavenders and they became like a second family to me. I still stay in touch with people in Wellington. And, having my jersey retired was pretty special too.”
Q: You signed a pro contract straight out of Tier II, not the usual route to pro hockey. Is that something you remind your prospects, that there are many ways to achieve a goal?
Helmer: “I tell that to kids all the time. If you're good enough and work hard enough and are passionate enough, you can get there. I was never drafted — in any league — but played 20 years of pro hockey. Sure, you need some luck, and I had some. But you've got to work hard to make your own luck.”
Q: Few people know the AHL better than you. Will it work in Belleville when the Binghamton Senators move to Yardmen Arena next season?
Helmer: “I think it's going to be great. Any time you can get a team going back to Canada, that's great. I think they'll do well. The fans will support the team. It's good for the organization to be closer to Ottawa and it's a win-win for the league and Belleville. I hope to get up there a few times. It'll be a lot like having a junior club again. The AHL does a really good job of getting players out and into the community.”
Q: For you, your wife, Pam, and your two children — Kade, 15, and Rylan, 11 — was it time to put down some roots in Hershey, where you won two Calder Cup titles, after an often nomadic professional playing career?
Helmer: “When I got the opportunity to do this job, I was very happy. It was time to settle down. I grew up in a small town and my wife grew up in a small town. Hershey has that smalltown feel, but with big-city things to do.”
Q: Talent and desire were key to your success as a player. What else?
Helmer: “I was fortunate enough to play with a lot of really good players. I was surrounded by some great human beings.”
NEED TO KNOW: Helmer retired as the AHL's all-time career leader for games played (1,117) and points (564) by a defenceman.

I was the scorekeeper, timekeeper, announcer for the Dukes when Bryan Helmer began his career with the Dukes. It was always a pleasure to deal with him. A quality guy.
Thanks to the Intelligencer and to Paul Svoboda for this article.

James Hurst
February 2, 2017

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