At the Helm

Bryan Helmer
Mark Hancock

The 19-year veteran and three-time Calder Cup champion holds American Hockey League records for most points in a career and most games played by a defenseman.

Helmer came to the Barons from the Hershey (Penn.) Bears, where he helped that team win back-to-back AHL championships. He said he has been happy with his new team; this is his first full season with the Barons.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Oklahoma City,” the Ontario native said, “but it’s nice.”

It’s rare for pro athletes in any sport to be playing at 39, but hockey is especially damaging to the body. Helmer said he’s had to adapt as his body has aged.

“My recovery time is longer than it used to be,” he said. “I have to take better care of myself. I’ve learned how.”

The prospect of yet another Calder Cup win excites him.

“I want another shot at it,” he said.

“This is why we play.”

Helmer said next season is likely his last. Not that he won’t still be immersed in the sport, since his two children — an 11-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl — also play.

The latter was the inspiration for his off-the-ice philanthropic work, Helmer’s Heroes. She was born with ABO incompatibility, an immune system reaction that occurs when two types of incompatible blood are mixed together. The condition can be fatal or cause brain damage if not treated in time.

“We
spent a great deal of time in the hospital trying to understand what
was wrong with her,” Helmer said. “Ultimately, she had a transfusion and
she was fine, but we saw so many kids who were sick, we just wanted to
do something to help out.”

He
partnered with the Barons, Children’s Miracle Network, Children’s
Hospital and Buffalo Wild Wings to form Helmer’s Heroes. Children’s
Hospital receives season tickets, the cost of which is covered by Buffalo
Wild Wings, so that kids who are well enough go to a Barons game free.
The children get a tour, meet Helmer, are interviewed during timeouts,
and see themselves on the arena’s jumbo screen.

“It’s a team effort from the partners and the arena staff,” Helmer said.

“Everyone contributes and tries to make the day special.”

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Greg Horton

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