The definition of CHAMPION—look no further! With tremendous excitement, ASHA welcomes Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux as our next ASHA Ambassadors. America fell in love with our Team USA 4x World Champions and Silver Medal superstars during the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. Monique was selected by the Boston Blades in the 2014 CWHL Draft, and would win the 2015 Clarkson Cup. Jocelyne and Monique, bring years of leadership, genuine heart and commitment for greater access of ice hockey to everyone, including those with special needs. We are incredibly excited and thrilled! Everyone welcome, Jocelyne and Monique to the ASHA Ambassadors Program
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Roy Sommer of the San Jose Barracuda is the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2016-17 season.
The award is voted on by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.
This is the first Pieri Award for Sommer, who has coached more games (1,478) than anyone in American Hockey League history. Overseeing one of the AHL’s youngest rosters, Sommer has guided the Barracuda to the Pacific Division title and the second-best record in the entire league with two games remaining in the regular season. San Jose is 43-16-2-5 (93 points, .705) and owns the AHL’s top-ranked offense (3.44 goals per game), and second-ranked power play (23.8 percent), while ranking fourth in team defense (2.56 goals per game) and eighth in penalty killing (83.3 percent). Sommer has also sent nine players to the NHL to skate with the parent San Jose Sharks this season.
Sommer, 60, is in his 19th season as a head coach in the AHL, a tenure spent entirely in the San Jose Sharks organization. The Oakland, Calif., native was named to the position on May 28, 1998, and has guided the Kentucky Thoroughblades (1998-2001), Cleveland Barons (2001-06), Worcester Sharks (2006-15) and Barracuda (2015- ) to a record of 691-675-112 and four division titles, coaching 126 players in the AHL who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League. Sommer, who spent the 1997-98 as an assistant coach with the Sharks, played 10 seasons of professional hockey and won a Calder Cup with the Maine Mariners in 1984.
The Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award, which was first presented in 1968, honors the late Mr. Pieri, a long-time contributor to the AHL as the owner and general manager of the Providence Reds and a member of the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Previous winners of the award include Frank Mathers (1969), Fred Shero (1970), Al MacNeil (1972, ’77), John Muckler (1975), Jacques Demers (1983), Larry Pleau (1987), Mike Milbury (1988), John Paddock (1988), Marc Crawford (1993), Barry Trotz (1994), Robbie Ftorek (1995, ’96), Peter Laviolette (1999), Claude Julien and Geoff Ward (2003), Claude Noel (2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2005), Kevin Dineen (2006), Mike Haviland (2007), Scott Gordon (2008), Scott Arniel (2009), John Hynes (2011), Jon Cooper (2012), Willie Desjardins (2013), Jeff Blashill (2014), Mike Stothers (2015) and Rick Kowalsky (2016).
In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 2016-17 regular season ends Saturday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.
The winner of the 2016-17 Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award (outstanding rookie) will be announced Thursday.
Their names are synonymous with the great tradition of Hershey Bears hockey. Now their names are forever enshrined with the legends of the American Hockey League. Monday morning in Allentown, Doug Yingst and Bryan Helmer became the newest members of the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Yingst’s career with the Bears began as a sales and promotions director. It ended when he retired last season after 34 years, completing his run as President and General Manager. His four Calder Cup championships as General Manager equals the most in league history.
Helmer: “To go in with this Hall of Fame class is very special.”
Ironically, Yingst front office replacement, Bryan Helmer was also inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame. Helmer played more games and recorded more assists and points than any defenseman in AHL history. He also played in more playoff games than anyone in league history. Helmer was the captain of two Bears Calder Cup championships.
Helmer was joined by his family as well, at the Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown for the induction ceremony. “I got a little emotional up there. I had to fight back the tears. It’s an emotional day. There are so many people who touched me through my career. To go in with this Hall of Fame class is very special. I played with a lot of good players on a lot of good teams. I played in the AHL for 19 years, and a lot of people have touched me through my career. I’m just excited to be inducted and to be a part of this.”
Yingst and Helmer become the 13th and 14th former Hershey Bears to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rob Murray and Billy Dea also were inducted into the class of 2017.
Capitals forward receives 2016 American Special Hockey Association Inspiration Award
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Ann Schaab walked slowly around the Washington Capitals locker room going from stall to stall searching for the one that belonged to Alex Ovechkin.
When she finally came to it, she stopped and called out to her mother, Melissa, "Ovi!"
Schaab, 12, met Ovechkin in 2014 when Ovechkin and the Capitals hosted a skating session for children from the American Special Hockey Association at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Schaab, who has Down syndrome, asked Ovechkin to go on a sushi date with her following a Capitals preseason game, and a friendship was born.
Ovechkin hosted his third annual skating event with ASHA on Friday, and Schaab, who plays for the Washington Ice Dogs, was back among the more than 60 players who participated.
"Me and Ovi are special friends," Ann Schaab said. "He helps me a lot. He helps my team and he helps my friends play hockey."
Ovechkin, 31, appeared to enjoy the event as much as the players. The Capitals captain offered encouragement and plenty of fist bumps to the players while helping run drills.
"It's fun," Ovechkin said. "I can see they're smiling. They ask me questions. It's always fun. It's nice to see them smile."
Founded in 2005 for players with developmental disabilities, ASHA has grown into a nationwide program with more than 2,000 players in 60 programs in 54 cities. The programs represented Friday included the Ice Dogs, Baltimore Saints, Montgomery Cheetahs and Nova Cool Cats.
"The big thing with our players is we're therapeutic-based, not competitive," ASHA president Mike Hickey said. "We're trying to instill confidence in them and teach them responsibility and socialization, and this is a real shot in the arm as far as confidence. They go to school tomorrow and tell all their friends that they skated with Alex Ovechkin. So it's kind of a big deal."
Hickey said Ovechkin's skating event is invaluable to the players and to ASHA because of the exposure it creates for the program.
"This draws a lot of awareness to what we're trying to do, and it's incredible for how people view us, that they know who we are," Hickey said.
For his contributions to ASHA, which include donating a car following the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, Ovechkin received the 2016 ASHA Inspiration Award from Hickey on Friday to chants of "Ovi! Ovi!" from the players. Former New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carkner was the recipient in 2015.
"For these NHL players, a lot of this is obligations," Hickey said. "For Ovi, this isn't an obligation. He loves doing it the last three years. He has a smile on his face. He loves the kids, and they love him."
Ovechkin called it "special" to receive the award.
"I got lucky," he said. "I'm a professional hockey player. I just try to help the kids, and the organization does a great job to help me and help everybody around."
The Inspiration Award wasn't the only thing Ovechkin took home with him Friday. Schaab also presented him with a special gift in the Capitals locker room before they headed out to the ice.
By the time Ovechkin came out to greet her, Schaab was sitting in Nicklas Backstrom's locker stall after having tried on Backstrom's helmet. Although Ovechkin is her "special friend," Schaab wears No. 19 because of Backstrom.
Ovechkin doesn't seem to mind. He welcomed Schaab with a big hug before the two sat down to talk about life and hockey. That's when Schaab showed him the children's book, "Drop the Puck, Let's Play Hockey."
After reading about the friendship between Ovechkin and Schaab, and meeting Ann at an Ice Dogs fundraiser in April, author Jayne J. Jones Beehler decided to incorporate them into the third installment of her "Drop the Puck" series. In the latest book, one of the returning characters, Blaine, the manager of the Minnesota Bears youth team who also has Down syndrome, joins an ASHA team.
When Blaine initially has trouble learning to skate, a new character named Ann lends a hand.
After meeting Schaab, Jones thought, "There's no better ASHA player to highlight this from the heart than Ann."
"So Ann friends him and skates over to Blaine, who is struggling from his first couple of marches on the ice," Jones said. "She friends him, helps him out, and we continue on the Ovi love affair a little bit because in the book Blaine asks Ann go for mini-donuts. Those are a Minnesota hot commodity. Then, Ann replies, 'I don't like mini-donuts. I prefer sushi.'"
Schaab opened the book to page 35 to show Ovechkin the illustration of her character helping Blaine. She then signed the page for Ovechkin.
"I will put it with all of my trophies," Ovechkin promised Schaab.
All of the proceeds from sales of the book through Nov. 7 will go to ASHA. Ovechkin, who has talked about starting a family with wife, Nastya, liked the idea of maybe someday reading the book to his children so they can learn about his friendship with Schaab.
"It's always nice when the kids love you and I love them," he said. "We have fun, we talked before the [skate], and it's great."
ASHA Ambassador Matt Carkner receives the ASHA Inspiration Award from ASHA President, Mike Hickey as Carkner's wife Kary and their two sons Chase and Corbin look on. Photo by: Jon Tenca/Puck Stopper Photography
Unlike some other honors in the sports world, the American Special Hockey Association’s (ASHA) Inspiration Award isn’t presented annually. This particular recognition is only given when a person goes above and beyond when it comes to dedicated support of ASHA and its member programs.
With that in mind, it was far more than a formality Dec. 13 when the award was given to ASHA Ambassador Matt Carkner of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers immediately before the team’s home game against the Hershey Bears. It was, however, a surprise to the honoree when he learned that many of his family members were in attendance. (It was no surprise, however, that Matt’s brother-in-law was there; Bryan Helmer is an assistant coach with the Bears.)
According to ASHA, the award was presented to Carkner for his years of dedicated service to ASHA programs. He not only has been involved with ASHA in the United States but also in Canada – in particular the Capital City Condors in Ottawa, back during his playing days with the Senators.
After receiving the honor, Carkner stated, “Getting involved in ASHA programs has been a great experience for me. Seeing the smiles on kids' faces when they get to play a game they love is truly a rewarding experience. Being recognized with the ASHA Inspiration Award is above and beyond anything I ever expected. I'm just happy to be able to do this for some wonderful kids.”
Carkner most recently has dedicated his time to the Long Island Blues (while playing for the New York Islanders) and the Southern Connecticut Storm (while playing for Bridgeport). Those familiar with his philanthropy say he has spent seemingly countless hours on the ice with players in the program – and he didn’t stop there. Carkner has made his seats available to ASHA players and their parents so they can watch games, and he has facilitated postgame tours of the locker room.
“Matt gives our players star treatment and makes them feel included, which is so important for this population,” said Mike Hickey, president of ASHA. “Our players look at Matt as their new buddy or best friend, and that is exactly the way Matt views them.”
Deb McQuilkin, Program Director of the Southern Connecticut Storm, stated, "We could not have been more pleased when Matt got in touch with us. He endeared himself to the Storm program immediately, becoming an instant role model and friend to the players on our team. Matt and his family are an important part of our Storm Special Hockey program in so many ways. What a wonderful gift to our special athletes and our program.”
Matt's wife, Kary, said, “Ever since I've known Matt, over 20 years now, he has always had the biggest heart and love for kids. So it didn't surprise me for a second when he got involved with kids playing special hockey – it’s the perfect fit for him! After all, Matt is just a big kid himself and his passion is hockey.”
Mike Russo, Program Director of the Long Island Blues, noted, “Matt goes over and above for the players and their families. He is a huge supporter of Special Hockey and loves skating and hanging out with the kids. He is an ambassador for sport.”
Hickey concluded, “Some people in life talk the talk, but Matt Carkner walks the walk. It is obvious why over his career he has been a great leader on and off the ice. I believe this is why many players are picking up on what Matt has done and are now following his lead.”
The Stanley Cup came to the White House on Oct. 6 – and so did the American Special Hockey Association.
ASHA Ambassadors President Mike Hickey was among the 250 or so guests who attended a packed ceremony in the East Wing featuring President Obama, the reigning NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins – and, yes, the Cup itself. The gathering is an annual White House tradition.
Immediately after the ceremony, Hickey informally met with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), an enthusiastic backer of ASHA, and Penguins center Matt Cullen, an ASHA ambassador.
“It means the world to our program to have the backing of people like Sen. Casey and Matt Cullen,” Hickey said. “They are both champions in every sense of the word. It was also an honor for me to attend the ceremony representing American Special Hockey and all of our teams across the continent.”
Hershey, PA – Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company (HE&R) announced today that Bryan Helmer has been named Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Hershey Bears following the retirement of General Manager Doug Yingst. Helmer, who served as assistant coach of the team during the 2015-2016 season, will assume oversight of the operation of the Hershey Bears, the longest consecutive running team in American Hockey League (AHL) history.
“Given his outstanding leadership with our team and extensive experience with the area, we could not be more confident in the future of the Hershey bears under Bryan’s direction. Bryan has won with us as a player and has an impressive record as an assistant coach. He knows what it takes not only to win, but to carry on the important tradition of the Hershey Bears – both on and off the ice.”
Helmer is no strangers to the Hershey Bears as he successfully played for the team from 2008-2010, which includes two consecutive Calder Cups Championship runs. Alongside head coach Troy Mann, Helmer led the Bears to the Calder Cup Finals last season.
“Hershey, PA has always been a second home to me and it is an honor and privilege to take this leadership role with a team as legacy-rich as the Hershey Bears,” said Bryan Helmer. “This team has meant so much to me during my hockey career and is clearly a place that everyone in the AHL aspires to call home. I am very grateful for the opportunity to help this tremendous organization to be successful for the long term.”
Helmer has also been a major supporter of the American Special Hockey Association where he has given his time to work with athletes with developmental disabilities. Helmer arranged a skate earlier this year with some of the Hershey Bears players and one of the newest ASHA programs, the Hershey Heroes Special Hockey team. Bryan Helmer is a ASHA Ambassador, Special hockey ambassadors lend their names, visibility, and influence to bring attention to the abilities of people with developmental disabilities. By doing so, they promote the sport of hockey while building acceptance, tolerance, and respect for people of all abilities.
Prior to joining the Bears, Helmer spent the 2013-14 season behind the Petes bench as an Assistant Coach, helping the team to a 32-30-0-6 record and a run to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, assisting particularly with the defensive aspects of the game.
The 44-year-old Helmer, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is the AHL’s all-time leader in points by a defenseman. He recorded 564 points (129 goals, 435 assists) in a remarkable 20-year career that totaled 1,117 regular-season games – a number which ranks third in AHL history. Helmer is also the AHL’s all-time leader in Calder Cup playoff appearances, having played in 159 postseason games. He has tallied 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) and celebrated the AHL Calder Cup championship three times (Albany, 1995; Hershey, 2009 and 2010). Helmer was the Hershey Bears’ captain for both of the team’s back-to-back league titles. Helmer resides in Hershey with his wife, son and daughter.
ASHA Ambassadors News
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Chris Beehler, Executive Director
P.O. Box 3411
Crofton, Maryland 21114