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FORMER BARONS CAPTAIN TURNS TO COACHING
By Chris Wescott,
Former Barons Captain Turns to Coaching
In an interview with former Oklahoma City Barons captain Bryan Helmer today, I could sense the happiness radiating through the phone. Helmer, who turned 41 just this month, was named as an Assistant Coach of the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.
“I am extremely happy,” Helmer said. “We just got back. We were up there Monday and Tuesday for the announcement. The organization has treated us so well so far. Not just myself, but also my family. The town seems like such a huge hockey town and I think it’s just going to be a good fit.”
Helmer, a stout professional hockey veteran of 20 seasons, called it a quits to his hockey playing careerfollowing a 24-game stint with the Springfield Falcons in the AHL last season. It didn’t take long for Bryan to find a new home.
“It came out of nowhere, it just happened so fast. I was just going to take this summer and relax, and this came up. I talked to (my wife) about it and thought it’d be a good opportunity to get my feet wet in coaching. (Petes’ Head Coach) Jodi Hull seemed like a really good, good guy.”
Following his final season with the Barons in 2012, I recalled a conversation I had with Bryan about his plans for the future and whether they involved coaching. He had told me that it was his goal to play as long as he could, but find some way to stay in the game that he loves. He reiterated that mindset again, today.
“I wanted to stay in the game because I love the game so much, and I’ve been around it for my whole life… I had to be in the situation that was the right fit.”
For Helmer, the options were out there. After amassing 134 games and 59 points (8-51-59) with the Hershey Bears in two seasons, the AHL team provided the defenseman with an opportunity to possibly return in a new role.
“I talked to Hershey (AHL) a little bit, through text messages with Doug Yingst (President and General Manager),” Helmer confessed. “They brought a new coach in there and he said if I wanted to give the new coach a call and apply to be the Assistant Coach, (I could).”
“It happened right when I just got home and I wasn’t ready to make that decision yet. So, they ended up hiring another Assistant Coach. So, there was an opportunity there. But, I just wasn’t ready and then this came up and I thought it would be a better fit. Just to start in the OHL, with younger guys.”
Helmer hasn’t been a rookie since 1993, but he now enters his rookie season as a coach. It’s a new experience that could eventually launch a new career.
“It totally is, if I get in there and I really like (coaching), which I think I am going to… Just like my career, I am going to take it one year at a time and just enjoy in the moment. It’s going to obviously be a learning experience for myself.”
OKC General Manager, Bill Scott, added this about Helmer and his newly chosen career:
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for Bryan to go coach in Peterborough,” said Scott. “He’s had an unbelievable career as a pro hockey player. His leadership ability and coaching ability is going to be able to be on display at that level of hockey. Taking the young kids and teaching them what it takes to become a pro and transition them out of the amateur ranks.”
“There’s really no better guy that I can think of to go into a job like that and he’s a guy that’d you’d absolutely bet on to have a long career now, as a coach, with all of his experience. He’ll do a tremendous job with those kids.”
Bryan signed a two-year contract with Peterborough.
The veteran is a legend of AHL hockey. Following his 2011-12 stint with the Barons alone, Helmer becamejust the third player to ever appear in 18 AHL seasons and move him to third on the charts in AHL games played behind only Willie Marshall and Fred Glover. Helmer also became the leagues all-time scoring leader for defenseman, tops in all-time games played by a defenseman and most AHL playoff games played.
Looking back, Helmer wouldn’t change a thing about his long career.
“I was so lucky through my career to stay pretty healthy and to play as long as I did and I still think I could play another year. But, the saying is, ‘Quit while you’re ahead.”
“It was just time. I am pretty proud of what I did with my career. Just the people I’ve met over my career, the place I have played… It’s been a lot of fun. I’d never change it for the world… I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Helmer has many fond memories of his time in Oklahoma City and says it was one of the most enjoyable stops along a storied career.
“We still stay in touch with a few people from Oklahoma City,” Helmer says. “The time I had there, was great. The fans were awesome. I met a lot of great people. The organization was great. It was one of the better ones I have ever played for.”
“It was a great, fun year and a half that I spent there. I can’t say one bad thing about it.”
Well, Bryan confesses, except maybe the weather.
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