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Helmer claims Fred T. Hunt Award

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that defenseman Bryan Helmer of the Oklahoma City Barons has been named the 2010-11 winner of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.

The award is voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

Eighteen years after beginning his professional career after going undrafted out of the Junior-A ranks in Ontario, Helmer further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest defensemen in American Hockey League history in 2010-11. After going unsigned for the first three months of the season, Helmer inked a tryout contract with the Barons on Jan. 7 and notched 10 points in his first five games for Oklahoma City. A third-period goal at Peoria on Jan. 13 marked Helmer’s 520th career AHL point, making him the league’s all-time leader among defensemen, and when he took the ice for a game in Calgary against the Abbotsford Heat on Feb. 18, Helmer became just the seventh player in AHL history to play 1,000 regular-season games.

Helmer’s leadership and professionalism were cited by the Barons on Mar. 5 when they rewarded him with a two-year contract through 2011-12.

A 38-year-old native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Helmer’s storied AHL career has included three Calder Cup championships, two postseason AHL All-Star Team recognitions and 146 National Hockey League games. In 1,020 regular-season AHL games since 1993, Helmer has recorded 126 goals and 411 assists for 537 points, and he has also played more Calder Cup Playoff games (138) than any player in AHL history.

This award, which was first presented by the AHL in 1978, honors the late Fred T. Hunt, a long-time contributor to the league who won three Calder Cup championships as a player and three more as a general manager. Previous winners of the award include Ross Yates (1983), Glenn Merkosky (1987, ’91), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Murray Eaves (’89, ’90), John Anderson (1992), Tim Tookey (1993), Ken Gernander (1996, 2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2000), Mike Keane (2007), Ajay Baines (2009) and Casey Borer (2010).

Celebrating its historic 75th anniversary season in 2010-11, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 2010-11 season ends on Apr. 10, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway.