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Chat transcript: Bryan Helmer

April 30, 2009

Hershey Bears defenseman and team captain Bryan Helmer entered the AHL Chat Room to discuss the Bears’ upcoming East Division Finals series against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, being around other veteran leaders, his experience as captain of the Canadian team at the AHL All-Star Classic, some of the highlights from his hockey career to this point, and much more.


What is it like knowing that you have to go through two of your biggest rivals – Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre – in the first two rounds of the playoffs? – Jim from Lancaster, Penn.


Well, it’s good. They’re both good teams, and they’re both pretty close, and over the years they have been big rivals. It’s going to be hard, but hopefully we can do it.

 

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How do you guys as a team look to counter the play of Chris Minard, who led a Penguin attack that seemed to have Hershey’s number for most of the season? – Mike from Clemson, S.C.


Chris Minard is definitely one of the top players in the league, and he can definitely score goals. We’re going to have to make sure we have our top two defensemen out there against him at all times, and make sure we’re aware of where he is on the ice at all times. He shoots from everywhere, and he’s a threat every time he’s on the ice. So we’ll probably have our top defensive forwards and top defensive defensemen out there as much as we can.

 You look at the series, they pretty much took it to us all season long. We’re looking at it as we’re the underdogs. You know, they’ve got a good team, and like I said, they took it to us in the regular season. So we definitely have our work cut out for us, and hopefully if we play the way we can, we’ll see how it goes.

 


Coming off a first-round sweep and preparing for a tough opponent like Wilkes-Barre, how confident is the team heading into the second round? – Tyler from Lancaster, Penn.


We definitely have confidence, but you don’t want to get too high on confidence. Like we said, we’re playing a great team in the Penguins, and you look at the regular season and what they did to us. But you have to play with that, you have to have a little swagger. We didn’t win our division for no reason, and we definitely have a good team, too. It’s going to be a good series, and it’s going to be a fun series.

You look at our scoring, and you look at their scoring, and we’re two of the top teams in the AHL.

   


As captain, do you do anything differently before a playoff game to lead the team as opposed to during the regular season? – Judy from Hummelstown, Penn.


Well before both series, we all went out for lunch, and I stood up and said a few words. You know, I’ve been on teams where captains do that, so I guess I just kept the tradition up. But besides that, we’ve got so many leaders in our room, they make my job easier so I don’t have to do too much.

 


What’s it like in the locker room with so many veteran leaders? Does it make your job as captain a little easier knowing there are other guys in the room that can help out the rookies because they’ve been through the battles before? – Eric from Enola, Penn.


Exactly. There are four or five guys in our room who could easily be captain. I think they picked me because I’m the oldest guy and they felt sorry for me. But you know, Dene Arsene, Graham Mink, those two guys have won championships here. Then you have guys like Alex Giroux and Keith Aucoin, who want to win one. Then you have a guy like Chris Bourque, who’s won a championship here, too. You can just go through our team, and any one of those guys could be the captain of our team, so yeah, it does make my job much easier.   

 


Do you think the rivalry between the Bears and Penguins is a notch or two higher for this series because the two teams’ affiliates – Washington and Pittsburgh – are also battling in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? – Bo from Mountain Top, Penn.


For sure. You know, our coach brought that up. It’s pretty neat to see two organizations, not just in the NHL but through the whole organization, competing to move on to the next round. It’s definitely going to raise the intensity, and I think both organizations want to win in both spots, in both leagues. It’s going to be good, it’s good for hockey, especially being so close, and being in “PA.” So it’s going to be fun, and it will be exciting for the fans, too.

 


How was the experience at this past year’s AHL All-Star Classic in Worcester, a place where you used to play? – Phil from Worcester, Mass.


It was a thrill. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my career. To be named the captain of the Canadian team was a big honor for me. I had so much fun, and Worcester put on a great weekend. I had my family there, my two kids and my wife and my parents. It was a thrill for me, and like I said, it was one of the highlights of my career.

 I had met a lot of nice people in Worcester, and I was captain there (with the IceCats) for half a season too. I played with a lot of great players, and I enjoyed the city and so did my wife. It was a good time.

 


What do you like most about playing in Hershey as opposed to other places you have played in your career? – Brett from York, Penn.


Obviously, number one is the fans here. People always ask me, “How do you like Hershey?” and I say “Where else can you play on a Wednesday night in front of 9,000 people?” They expect a lot, and they expect you to win every night. It puts a little pressure on you, but it’s good pressure. I’ve met a lot of nice people here, and everybody’s so friendly. I really like how it’s a smaller-town atmosphere. You know, I grew up in a small town, so it feels like home and people here make it feel like home. So, it’s one of the best organizations I’ve played for.   

 


Outside of the hockey aspect, what does your family enjoy about the Hershey area? – Brian from Elizabethtown, Penn.


Obviously, you’ve got the parks, and there’s lots of stuff here to do for families. Like I said before, we like the small-town atmosphere feeling because my wife is from a small town and so am I. Also, we love the school that my son goes to. My son’s playing minor hockey around here, and the parents of his teammates are very nice, and obviously his coaches are really nice too. We’ve been here not even a full year, and we’ve met a lot of nice people and made a lot of good friends.

 


What has been the biggest difference in going from playing in San Antonio to Hershey this season? – Jessica from San Antonio, Texas


I think the big thing is the people are more aware of hockey here. Like I said before, the way they bring the attendance in and people obviously love their hockey here. In San Antonio, I think people are learning about hockey, whereas people know about hockey here. And weather-wise, it’s obviously beautiful in Texas, and it’s not too bad here, but it’s a little colder than Texas.

 Another big one is the travel. We had to fly everywhere in Texas, and get up early in the mornings to catch flights. Whereas here we just jump on a bus, and sometimes even day of the game, like two hours over to Philly. But travel definitely does wear you down, and it’s a big difference.

 


Where is your favorite place to play an away game, and why? – Courtney from Connecticut


I would have to say a place like Albany, especially because that’s where I started my career. It’s always good to go back to a place like that, see people that I was pretty close to when I first came into the league. Obviously going to Texas, going to a warm environment is nice, too. Then you have places like Wilkes-Barre and Philly, where it’s the big rivalry. It’s always fun going into rinks like that, especially when you win.

 


Based on all of your experiences as a hockey player through the years, where are one or two places you think you’d like to watch a game as a fan? – Kelly from Forty Fort, Penn.


You know, I’d like to watch a game in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They’re sort of like here in Hershey – they love their hockey, and it’s a pretty loud atmosphere. Another one, too, is in the Spectrum. Like the last game we played there during the regular season, it was a packed house. It was pretty loud in there, so if it was a full house, it would be a pretty neat atmosphere in the Spectrum, too.

 In the NHL, there’s a lot of places. I’d like to watch a game in Chicago when it’s a full house. I know I played in St. Louis and Vancouver, and then there’s also in Detroit and Washington, there are places that get pretty loud.   

 


What are one or two memories that stand out from your hockey career so far? – Jared from Williamsport, Penn.


Well definitely winning the Calder Cup in ’95 in Albany would be one of them. My first NHL game, my first NHL goal, those are pretty much the top three. And then you have this year, getting back into the NHL – you know, I’m 36 years old and didn’t really expect it to get back up there, and it happened. And another one is obviously being captain at the All-Star Game. That was my first All-Star Game, and to be the captain was a good feeling and one of the highlights of my career.

 


Bryan wanted to add...


I’m glad you all took the time to send in your questions, and I do enjoy answering things like this.