Helm enjoying the ride

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Darren Helm and the Detroit Red Wings let loose after winning the Stanley Cup.

Let it be known, however, that the 21-year-old from St. Andrews was nowhere near Lord Stanley's mug when it was dented last Friday at Chris Chelios' restaurant.

"I had nothing to do with that," Helm said yesterday upon arrival at Winnipeg's Richardson International Airport.

The Red Wings centre made sure he was present for everything else, though.

There was an extravagant dinner celebration at team owner Mike Illitch's pad ("It was an extraordinary house," Helm said. "They own half of Detroit."), a parade in front of 1.4 million fans through downtown Motown, an official team picture with the Cup and a little bit of golf, too.

"It's been pretty crazy in Detroit. A lot of team get-togethers, a lot of drinking," Helm said with a sly grin. "We had a parade in Detroit that was pretty crazy. We just celebrated, really. It's an awesome time and an exciting time. ... On Sunday we kind of wound it down."

On Monday the team held its exit meetings with players. Helm's discussions with GM Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock helped bring him back down to Earth -- a bit.

"It was kind of what I expected," he said. "They said, 'Good job. Congratulations on the Cup.' And then they let me know that just because I came in and played well in the playoffs doesn't mean I have a spot for next year. So I'll have to work hard in the off-season to earn a spot for next year.

"That was expected. I just have to prepare like I want to be there next year, because I definitely want to be there. Winning that Stanley Cup is definitely motivation. Hopefully that gives me a little bit of an edge."

Helm is starting to realize just how remarkable the last three months have been. He didn't play his first regular-season NHL game until mid-March, suiting up for seven in all. Yet there he was in Pittsburgh last week, hoisting the Cup above his head after scoring two goals and adding two assists in 18 post-season games.

He leapfrogged an awful lot of talent to go from Grand Rapids Griffin in the AHL to fourth-line centre on the Stanley Cup champs.

"Guys that I've played with, they just can't believe it," Helm said. "... My coach from last year (Medicine Hat Tigers boss Willie Desjardins), he told me he can't believe how well I played and the fact that I won. He said it's just such an unbelievable turnaround from last year. I feel the same way. It doesn't happen ... almost ever.

"My goal this year was to play about five games in the NHL regular season and just be along for the ride in the playoffs. It's starting to catch up to me now, all the things that have happened."

Helm's parents, Gary and Coriene, were there to greet him at the airport yesterday with big hugs and misty eyes. Helm plans to hit the golf course today with some buddies and then take it easy for a while with family and friends.

"I'll probably just take some time," he said, "to regroup and think about everything."

Can you blame him?


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