A 20-year hockey career and 3 Calder Cups (1995, 2009 and 2010) is not too shabby for this former Sault-native.
It all started to hit home in 1993, when Bryan Helmer signed his first professional contract in the American Hockey League.
Just recently he became one of the newest members of the AHL Hall of Fame.
He told reporters: “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.”
“He might have been ahead of a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” AHL president Dave Andrews said. “We selected him last year and figured out he wasn’t eligible yet. It was pretty clear he was going to be inducted this year with the career that he had.”
Jersey No. 44 was retired in 2014 by the Junior A hockey club the Wellington Dukes and later enshrined in the Class of 2017, with ceremonies, held during the recent AHL All-Star Classic in Allentown, PA.
Helmer, 44, is now vice-president of hockey operations for the AHL Hershey Bears.
“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.”
He did get his taste of the NHL too, playing over 140 games with the Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and the Washington Capitals.
Upon getting his shot at the NHL:“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.”
His time in the AHL was nothing short of spectacular as a defenseman, playing in over 1,100 games and notching over 560 points.
Before starting in the American Hockey League with the Albany River Rats, where he would play five seasons, he was with the Wellington Dukes and the Bellville Bulls of the OJHL.
His last season with the Dukes he made an amazing 87 points in 57 games.
With Albany his play got better every season, ending on a high note of 63 points in 80 games.
From there he had a brief stint in the IHL with the Las Vegas Thunder. He started his NHL career that season playing some games with the Phoenix Coyotes.
The rest is history with a series of moves from the NHL to the IHL to the AHL and all back over again.
I admit 20 years is a great career and to lead the league in games played and points all-time for a defenseman is astonishing.
Congratulations Bryan on your whole career and one that will continue in management. It’s certainly the stuff of Sault Legends!