Helmer sets GP mark for defensemen

Hershey Bears captain Bryan Helmer tied an American Hockey League record on Friday night when he took the ice at Norfolk’s Scope Arena for the Bears’ game against the Norfolk Admirals.

It was Helmer’s 982nd career regular-season AHL game, breaking a tie with Bill Needham for the most appearances ever by an AHL defenseman.

Helmer played in 71 of the Bears’ 80 games this season, the eighth time in his career he has played at least 70 AHL games in a season. Helmer has played in all 80 games four times, most recently with Grand Rapids in 2005-06.

A Calder Cup champion with the Bears in 2009 and with Albany in 1995, Helmer is also the AHL’s career leader in assists by a defenseman with 393, and ranks second with 513 points in his 982 games.

Bill Needham was a mainstay on the Cleveland Barons’ blue line from 1957 to 1971, winning the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman in 1968 and capturing a Calder Cup in 1964.