The Oklahoma City Barons are in training camp for the next two weeks at the Cox Convention Center. The Barons' NHL affiliate, the Edmonton Oilers, have started to send prospects down for the 2011-2012 American Hockey League season. The Oklahoman will visit one-on-one with both veteran players and youngsters as they work to crack the Oilers' roster sometime this season.
The Barons will host the Houston Aeros at 7:05 p.m. Friday in an exhibition game at the Cox Center. Admission will be $10 for all seats.
Bryan Helmer, Oklahoma City Barons
*Height, weight: 6-1, 210
*Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
*First pro contract: Signed as free agent in 1994 with the New Jersey Devils. Helmer has 146 games of NHL experience, although he never played for the Devils.
*Famous friends: He has been teammates with plenty of past and present stars, including Jeremy Roenick, Alex Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov, Grant Fuhr and Chris Pronger.
*Frequent flier miles: Helmer has made plenty of stops during a lengthy hockey career that is closer to its end than its start. He has played in Albany, N.Y.; Las Vegas; Worcester, Mass.; Phoenix; St. Louis; Vancouver; Kansas City, Mo.; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Springfield, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; San Antonio; Hershey, Pa.; Washington; and now Oklahoma City, where he came out of retirement last season to provide scoring from the blue line and serve as a leader to young Edmonton Oiler prospects.
*Card wars: Anyone who wants to get an autograph might want to find two Helmer trading cards on the market. He is on card No. 131 in the Bowman's Best set from 1998-99 and card No. 205 in the Topps Heritage set for the 2000-01 season.
*First person he called when he earned first NHL promotion, to the Phoenix Coyotes during the 1998-99 season: “My girlfriend, who is my wife now, and my parents. They were kind of speechless. I tried to get them down from Ontario to Phoenix for my first game. I got my (wife) down there, but my parents couldn't make it. They heard the game on the radio and were really excited about it.”
*A promotion to the NHL means an increase in pay. The first thing Helmer purchased after receiving his first Coyotes paycheck: “That was so long ago, but I think I took my family and my wife's family out for a big meal. They were my biggest fans and biggest supporters, so I wanted to give something back to them.”
*Barons coach Todd Nelson and former teammate Alex Giroux talked Helmer out of retirement last season. Helmer soon found out that Oklahoma is not all about chuck wagons, cowboys and tumbleweeds. “I had a lot of people say that to me when I told them I was going to Oklahoma. Cowboys, rodeos and things like that.”
*Helmer has worn several different jerseys during a long career. One of the more unique might be the brown suits worn by the Hershey Bears, home of the famous chocolate factory. “There were days when the wind was coming in, it smelled just like chocolate outside. You go downtown and the street lamps are the shape of a Hershey's kiss, so it's pretty much chocolate everywhere there. There's a lot of history there, even with the hockey team being in the (American Hockey League) from its start. It's a nice place, and the people are great.”