Twice as nice.
Before the stifling heat of a mid-August day materialized, Darren Helm sat out in the backyard patio of his Bloomfield Hills home and took in the rays of the still Michigan morning as he carefully examined the purposeful inscriptions covering the Stanley Cup. Engrossed in its detail, Helm steadily rotated the base of the historic 35-pound trophy as he explored the names – of players he looked up to like Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and Mike Modano – and respective teams who have been fortunate enough to, at one point in time, also claim the coveted trophy as their own.
Despite nearly blinding its onlookers – as a result of its silver and nickel alloy beaming brightly against the morning sunlight – the up-close view of the iconic trophy was ideal for taking in the rich history that is showcased throughout every inch the nearly three-foot tall Cup. The quiet viewing was joyfully interrupted by the laughter of Helm’s three daughters; Reece, Rylee and Zoe, as the trio came bustling through the backyard with a mini-Stanley Cup replica of their own and took turns lifting it over their head just as their father had done on the ice this past June with the Colorado Avalanche.
For Helm, his individual celebration for winning the Stanley Cup – as he did for the second time in his career and in his first season with the Avalanche – unfolded quite differently than when he first hoisted the trophy 14 years ago in 2008 as a fresh 21-year-old rookie with the Detroit Red Wings.
“There’s a bit more respect to it now for sure,” Helm said as he reflected on his journey to his second Cup win. “The first time, I was a bit naive. It was just my first year in the league, I came in and won. I didn’t have to have to put in my time or pay my dues. This time around now, I did that more.”
After being drafted by the Red Wings in the fifth round (132nd overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft, then completing his junior hockey career in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2007, Helm began his professional career during the 2007-08 season in Detroit’s organization with their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate the Grand Rapid Griffins. The centerman was called up to join the Red Wings during March of the regular season and went on to dress in 18 postseason games and recorded four points (2G, 2A) en route to helping the Detroit claim the 11th Stanley Cup in franchise history and would go on to play 744-regular season games with the club.
His trajectory to pro hockey, the NHL and becoming an eventual champion, was a whirlwind and all took place in the span of less than a year. So, when awarded his first solo day with the Stanley Cup back in the summer of 2008, Helm was proud to parade the iconic trophy back in his hometown of St. Andrews, Manitoba.
He took the Cup around town; to his elementary school and local hockey rink, all while using a zamboni as transportation on the main roads and back to the acreage of his family farm where a couple hundred people stopped by throughout the evening. The day was a total celebration of his individual accomplishment and an appreciation for his hometown roots.
Helm’s wife Devon was there for the first Cup win as was the couple’s “first child” Easton, their Morkie (cross between a Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier) dog, who was just a few months old back in then. Easton fortunately has still been “kicking” – as Devon joked – long enough to see Helm’s second Stanley Cup win.
Life has changed drastically since that 2008 win for Helm and Devon, who noted they were “just kids back then,” and even for Easton, who is a little hard of hearing in his older age.
Helm, who is now 35 years old and the “ultimate Girl Dad” according to Devon, opted to spend his second designated day with the Cup on Thursday, Aug. 18 in the suburbs of Detroit – the place that has become home for he and Devon and their three daughters – and at a slower pace than the 2008 Cup win.
“We’ve been here for a long time, 14 years in Detroit,” Helm said. “We’ve made Detroit home and have met a lot of great people. Sharing it with them was important to us. We wanted to do that. We both come from Canada and don’t have family here, but they’ve all made Detroit very welcoming for us, and made the transition very easy especially as we’ve raised a family here. They’re great people and we wanted to give back.”
After receiving the Cup around 9 a.m., the Helm family set out for the front yard, where they took commemorative photos with the trophy, including shots on the front porch and in the front yard while all sporting Avalanche No. 43 ‘Helm’ jerseys. Helm even posed for a solo shot in his iconic “spot” on a chair on the front porch beside the doorway entrance, holding a cup of coffee.
The visual of Helm sitting in the chair of his front porch is such a common daily occurrence that one of the four sons of current Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jeff Petry – who also lives in the neighborhood in the offseason – will ask, ‘Where’s Da-wen?” if Helm is not situated in his usual spot when the Petry family drives past.
Following the brief family photoshoot, the Helm family returned to the backyard for the much-awaited event of the morning, eating Lucky Charms out of the Stanley Cup. The whole crew of Darren, Devon, Reece, Rylee and Zoe all crowded around the bowl of the Cup as they picked out the pastel-colored marshmallows among the cereal.
“It’s so much more special,” Devon said, reflecting on sharing the Stanley Cup experience with her three daughters. “The first time you win it is obviously amazing, but to have [the girls] and they’re old enough to understand it now and what’s going on. It’s a very hard trophy to win. Darren won it his first year and you’re like, ‘Oh, great! What a great start!’ Then, you don’t know if you’ll ever get that chance again. Fourteen years later we did. It’s pretty amazing.”
Shortly after the breakfast of champions, the Helm’s hosted close friends and family to celebrate the victory. Soon, the Helm’s spacious backyard was filled with children of all ages – including the four Petry boys – running around, eating popsicles, jumping on the trampoline and playground and on the bouncy house that was brought in just for the celebration.
Over on the basketball court – which also serves as a shooting practice deck for Helm with a worn-in net – was a converted photo-op set up for capturing moments with the Stanley Cup. The backdrop for the Cup featured a giant hockey puck in the center, with light-up large number 43 cutouts and an assortment of burgundy, blue and white balloons that created an arch towards the right of the puck.
Helm’s parents arrived after driving in from St. Andrews and were warmly welcomed. Helm’s father, Gary, reminisced about his son’s impressive hockey career and previous Stanley Cup win and noted that as the youngest of three boys – Helm’s older brothers Scott and Terry were unable to make the trip out – he always “held his own.”
“We were comparing photos from 2008 when he first won it,” Gary said. “Back then, it was just him and Devon on the ice celebrating the Stanley Cup. Then, we get pictures of him and all the girls on the ice this time around. It’s the best. We had tears in our eyes.
“I’m very proud of him,” Gary continued. “Hockey-career wise how he’s persevered through all kinds of injuries, but I’m prouder of him as a father. He’s great with the girls and Devon. My wife and I are very proud of him for that.”
After mingling with family and friends – and as nap time neared for many of the little ones – the Helm family took a quick break to regroup before heading to their next stop at Orchard Lake Country Club, where the family spends most of their summer days at.
Down near the dock – at the base of the hill where clubhouse sits, past the tennis courts and adjacent to the swimming pool – Helm stationed the Stanley Cup on a table with a picturesque backdrop courtesy of the majestic lake life Michigan offers as boats hummed by and the gentle waves brushed along the shallow shore.
Joined by close friends and family the Helm’s took photos – including some with the chef staff of the country club – mingled and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.
On a table diagonal from the Cup, were four photo frames – with information and personal photos – for two separate charities that are close to the Helm family, who are two of Devon’s best friends – and a designated box for donations.
The first charity was for Lungevity, which is a foundation dedicated to funding scientific research for lung cancer, after one of Devon’s best friends lost her husband, Matt to the disease. The second was for the Pierced Forever Foundation. The nonprofit charity was started by Kathryn and Brandon Movitz – who lost their 10-week-old son Pierce – was established in 2020 in memory of Pierce David Movitz, to help lead parents in the right direction when they are in need of information, resources or guidance on where to go or what to do after their loss.
“It’s a family moment and is such a family-oriented day,” Devon said. “But then there’s people that you’re missing. We just wanted to do something with it that would help because they’re two really good foundations and they’re for people that are really close to us.”
As the afternoon wrapped up, the Helm family returned to their home that evening for a low-key get together which included some of Helm’s former teammates – a few of whom have their names on the Cup from that 2007-08 Red Wings victory – and even the current captain of Detroit, Dylan Larkin.
Before guests arrived, the girls enjoyed one final treat from Lord Stanley, as they – and Helm – devoured an ice cream sundae from its bowl, perfect for mixing vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and rainbow sprinkles.
As familiar faces poured in, there were warm embraces and many congratulations shared as everyone in attendance was ecstatic for Helm’s accomplishment with the Avalanche and for Devon and the girls, who all had relocated to Denver for the 2021-22 season.
During Colorado’s Stanley Cup Championship run, Helm played a crucial role on the team’s energetic fourth line with fellow veteran Andrew Cogliano and Logan O’Connor. Helm totaled five points (2G, 3A), including the Game 5 series-clinching goal over the St. Louis Blues, where he unleashed a sizzling slap shot off a shot on a pass off the boards with less than five seconds left in regulation to advance the Avalanche past the Second Round for the first time since 2002. He also led the league in hits in the postseason with 97.
The Stanley Cup win brought the Helm family all to tears including Devon and each of the three girls, who were elated to share embraces with Helm on the ice in Tampa Bay following the Game 6 championship clinching game on June 26.
“He always gives it his all,” Devon said. “He won’t play at fifty percent; he has to play at one-hundred percent. In playoffs, he was so determined to win, and he wanted to win. It was just special and so cool to watch.”
And with another year on deck after inking a one-year contract extension with Colorado, Helm and his family enjoyed their Stanley Cup celebration and waning summer nights with their Detroit-based community before returning to Denver that Saturday as the girls began the 2022-23 school year that following Monday.
“It was amazing,” Helm said of the day with a smile. “We got to spend it with a lot of people who are really close to us and share it with kids and families who have respect for the Cup, love the game and just people who have been in our lives. I’m very grateful for the community that we have here. It was just such a fun day. Getting to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and just what [the Cup] does to people, it’s the best.”
For more information on Lungevity and how to donate or get involved, please click here.
For more information on the Pierced Forever Foundation and how to donate or get involved, please click here.
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