Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/7/2013 (2355 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Mike Hellyer exhausted his CIS hockey eligibility last spring, he didn’t think that he would get a chance to try out for an American Hockey League team just one year later.
However, that’s exactly the case for the 26-year-old Brandonite. Coming off his rookie-of-the-year campaign with the Central Hockey League’s Quad City Mallards, Hellyer is moving on up, leaving the Iowa-Illinois border communities for California and the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors. The contract he signed also earns him a tryout with the Minnesota Wild’s new AHL farm club, the Iowa Wild, which could be a huge break for the 5-foot-9, 180-pound right winger.
"It’s really big," said Hellyer, who spent five seasons playing in the CIS with the University of Manitoba Bisons before moving into the minor professional ranks. "I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to play with the high-end players in North America and see where I match up against them. It’s going to be very exciting for me. It will be a little nerve-racking for me when I get to camp, but I have all summer to focus on what to work toward."
Last season was an up-and-down campaign for Hellyer. There wasn’t any certainty that the Mallards would ice a team at the start of the season as the CHL took over the franchise from indebted owners hoping to sell the team to a new buyer, but that deal fell through. Quad City did take to the ice and Hellyer, a former Prince Albert Raider, posted 23 goals and 61 points in 63 games and went on to be named the league’s best freshman.
Things took a turn for the worse in his first playoff game as he suffered a torn MCL, ending his season. The good news was that the knee injury didn’t require surgery and he’s been busy rehabilitating it. He feels completely healthy now and is training on and off the ice in Winnipeg to prepare for next season.
"I’m back to 100 per cent," Hellyer said. "I’ve been skating and I’m heathy on the ice and in the weight room. It’s exciting that it wasn’t more damage than what I was expecting."
Hellyer is doing a lot more than training this summer. He’s also starting on his master’s thesis at the University of Manitoba.
His focus is on ankle range of motion during a hockey stride, so he’s comparing different skate boots and seeing what implications they have on the body.
While he’s busy working on his thesis, Hellyer is also focused on preparing for training camp. If he doesn’t get picked up by the Wild, he’ll head back to Bakersfield. The Condors have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and they have an ownership group that has promised free tickets for fans if the squad doesn’t make the post-season in the upcoming year.
Hellyer doesn’t feel that will add any extra pressure as he said he won’t be happy with just reaching the playoffs. Like any hockey player, he’s determined to go deep into the post-season and battle for a league title.
But his first goal will be to try to impress the Wild coaches.
"I’d really like to go and have a good showing at Iowa’s camp and show them what I can do," he said. "If it works out there, great. If not, I want to have another strong season for my second year. I learned a lot last year and I want to keep learning and developing as a player so in the future you never know where you can end up.
"I just want to keep getting better every day, whether it’s in practice or in games, and just go from there."