One milestone down, another in sight

by Chris Wescott || AHL On The Beat Archive

Oklahoma City Barons defenseman Bryan Helmer is well-traveled to say the least. Helmer is closing in on 1,000 games played in the American Hockey League and at the age of 38, he is still going strong.

In the Barons 7-2 win over Peoria on Jan. 13, Helmer became the top scoring defenseman in AHL history. He says he knew right away that he had broken the record with his third-period power-play goal.

“I did,” Helmer said. “I did. It was on my mind and as soon as I saw the puck go in, I knew I had the record. So it was good.”

When Helmer first entered the professional ranks in 1993, he never dreamed of being the AHL point leader.

“Not at all, especially where I came from,” Helmer said. Undrafted our of Tier II juniors in Ontario, Helmer has become one of the most decorated players in AHL history with 146 National Hockey League games to his credit as well.

“I just thought maybe if I get a couple years pro I’d be happy. But to do what I did is pretty special and like I said, I’m pretty fortunate to do that and to stay healthy through most of the time through my career.”

Helmer joined the Barons on Jan. 7, and since then has fit in perfectly with OKC, contributing early and often. So much so, he was named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week on Jan. 17.

The defenseman says it has been easy to mesh with the team since his signing and that he loves playing in Oklahoma City.

“It has. The guys here have been great. They’ve made me feel right at home. You know, obviously I’ve said before I’ve played with Alex (Giroux)… He’s a great guy. That was one of the things I talked about with him, before I signed, is how are the guys, how is the team. He said, ‘great bunch of guys’ and we’ve got a bunch of good, young guys that could go a long ways. So that was one of the reasons that I signed.”

Helmer played with Giroux in Hershey the last two seasons, winning Calder Cups with the Bears in 2009 and 2010. Helmer was also a Calder Cup champion with Albany in 1995.

“I love it. It’s the first time I’ve ever been (to Oklahoma City) and the fans are great and the facility is nice and the city itself is really nice. So it’s good that I’m here.”

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native has played a professional career stretching back over 18 years. It has been a long road that may be coming to an end.

“Well, I think this could be my last one,” Helmer said. “My wife’s been great to let me do this for 18 years, and I’ve accomplished a lot of things and I’m really happy now with my career but you never know. Things do change sometimes and we’ll go from there.”

But before he thinks about retiring, Helmer says he’d love to get to the 1,000 game mark.

“I’d love to get 1,000 games. That’d be another great milestone, another personal goal that I’d love to reach. That was the two things that I wanted to come back for. The point record and to get 1,000 games. If I could do that, it’d be icing on the cake.”

Helmer enters the new week with 992 AHL games on his resume. He says his love of the game has been what keeps him going. Only six players in the league’s 75-year history have reached 1,000.

“Well, I love it. I absolutely love coming to the rink, I love being around the young guys. I like to work out. I like to stay in shape. It makes you feel good. If it wasn’t for those things, I wouldn’t be playing obviously and I still have the itch to win, obviously after the last two years. That’s why I’m back.”