Two longtime members of the Hershey Bears have been elected to the AHL Hall of Fame. Longtime President and General Manager Doug Yingst, along with former player and current front office exective Bryan Helmer have both been elected to the AHL Hall of Fame.
The successor to a Hockey Hall of Famer, Doug Yingst made a name for himself during a storied 34-year career as an executive with the Hershey Bears. Hired as the Bears’ sales and promotions director in 1982, Yingst won the AHL’s Ken McKenzie Award for outstanding promotion of his club in 1987-88 as the Bears captured the Calder Cup. He was promoted to assistant general manager under the legendary Frank Mathers in 1988, and in 1990 added the role of director of hockey operations.
Yingst was named GM in 1996, and in his first season in that position the Bears won a Calder Cup championship. He later established an affiliation with the Washington Capitals in 2005 that began the greatest five-year run by any team in league history, with three more Calder Cup titles, four Finals appearances and a record 60-win season in 2009-10. Yingst oversaw the groundbreaking for Giant Center, which opened in 2002 as one of the premier facilities in the AHL, and guided the Bears to 10 consecutive seasons of league-leading attendance from 2006-16. He was instrumental in bringing two AHL All-Star Classics to Hershey (1996, 2011), and also orchestrated the first-ever outdoor game in the region at Hersheypark Stadium in 2013. A long-time member of the AHL’s Board of Governors and chairman of several league committees, Yingst was honored with the James C. Hendy Award as the league’s outstanding executive in both 2000 and 2006, and was the recipient of the Thomas Ebright Award for his career contributions in 2008. Yingst retired in 2016 after one more trip to the Calder Cup Finals, the eighth of his career. His four championships as general manager are tied for the most of anyone in league history.
Unheralded and undrafted after four seasons of Junior “A” and Junior “B” hockey, Bryan Helmer went on to play more games and record more assists and points than any defenseman in the history of the American Hockey League.
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Helmer made his pro debut with the Albany River Rats in 1993 and played five seasons in Albany, helping the club to a Calder Cup championship in 1995 and earning First Team AHL All-Star honors in 1997-98. Helmer later skated for the Worcester IceCats (1998-2000), the Manitoba Moose (2001-03) and the Springfield Falcons (2003-04) before joining the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he did not miss a single game during two seasons and was named a Second Team AHL All-Star in 2005-06.
Helmer then spent two years as captain of the San Antonio Rampage (2006-08) and then two seasons with the Hershey Bears (2008-10), where he captained the club to back-to-back Calder Cup championships. In 2009, Helmer was selected to wear the “C” for the Canadian team at the AHL All-Star Classic.
Helmer joined the Oklahoma City Barons in 2010, and on Feb. 18, 2011, became the seventh player in league history to reach 1,000 regular-season games. He was the recipient of the league’s Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award in 2010-11, as the player exemplifying sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.
After two seasons with the Barons, Helmer completed his 20-year professional playing career back in Springfield, retiring in 2013 in third place all-time with 1,117 regular-season games played, and first among AHL defensemen with 435 assists and 564 points. Helmer also played more postseason games (159) than anyone in AHL history – including seven trips to the conference finals and his three Calder Cups – and he finished with a cumulative plus/minus rating of +188, finishing at +15 or better eight times
Both will be inducted at the ceremony at the AHL All-Star game later this season..