Photo by sophnsoph9 on Flickr
In the history of the league there have only been a few native Yoopers to play in the NHL. Currently, there is one other Yooper playing in the NHL, Jeff Finger for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though Helminen was born in Hancock he spent most of his youth in Metro Detroit.
Helminen has played seven games for the Sharks in the playoffs thus far, including three against the Red Wings. On April 22nd he scored his first playoff goal against the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s definitely a thrill to play against them,” Helminen said, indicating he idolized Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov as a youngster, but as he developed into a checking role on the ice, came to follow another Wing more closely – Detroit centre Draper.
“He’s always been one of the Wings’ go-to penalty killers,” Helminen said. “When I was in school [at Michigan], that was kind of my role, so I used to watch Draper, and tried to emulate some of the stuff he does, especially on the penalty kill.”
This series is causing a bit of a rift amongst Helminen’s circle of friends.
“My immediate family all claim they’re cheering for the Sharks, but my sister informed me that a couple of her friends weren’t,” Helminen said. “They actually live in a house I own, so I’m going to have to adjust the rent. It might be going up.” — CBC Sports
Helminen, 26, was drafted 244th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Helminen played for the U.S. Junior National Team and went on to play college hockey in the CCHA, lacing up for the Michigan Wolverines for three seasons, from 2001-2004.
After playing for U of M he went on to play in the AHL and ECHL. The New York Rangers acquired his rights in 2004 and he entered the NHL in 2008 after signing a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. He would go on to play 23 games with the Hurricanes that season finishing with one goal and one assist. On July 16, 209 he signed a one-year contract with the San Jose Sharks.
He spends his off season in Brighton, MI.
If you’re a big Red Wings fan don’t throw out cheering for San Jose just because they beat the Red Wings. It would be great to see a fellow Yooper have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. And hopefully he will be able to develop as a regular player in the NHL.