Darren Helm scores in first meeting against Detroit, the city he called home for 13 years

Dec 10, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Darren Helm (43) celebrates with the bench after his goal in the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER — When Darren Helm signed with the Avalanche in free agency last offseason, he did so to join a Stanley Cup contender that will likely challenge for the Stanley Cup. An opportunity he had almost every year to start his young career with the Detroit Red Wings.

Helm was a rookie with the Red Wings when they won their fourth Cup in 11 years. They were one of the NHL’s best for well over two decades and reached the pinnacle of that run with Helm. The 2007-08 season began a 13-year stint for the St. Andrews, Manitoba, native in a place he says will forever be home.

“It’s home,” said Helm, who was drafted 132nd overall by Detroit in 2005. “I spent a lot of time there, raised three girls there. I’m sure that’s where we’re gonna end up when I retire. It’s been a great city to me. The fans have been great.”

“Yeah, it’s home.”

Helm and the Avs defeated the Red Wings 6-3 at Ball Arena in his first meeting against his former team. And the 34-year-old pitched in with a goal for good measure. And it couldn’t have been a more on-brand goal for the veteran.

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Helm made a living with Detroit utilizing his speed — an underrated aspect of his game — to generate opportunities on the breakaway. He didn’t always finish on those chances but he did on Friday against former teammate Thomas Greiss. That very same quality has translated well to Colorado.

“He’s not going to show up on the scoresheet every night,” head coach Jared Bednar said. “But there are things that he does for a hockey team. That’s been really good.”

Playing against his former team at home gave Helm an opportunity to shake off the initial emotions that come with that first meeting. And it’s fitting that it happens just 10 days before Colorado travels to Detroit for a rematch at Little Caesars Arena — in front of those very same fans that cheered Helm on for 13 years.

Helm was the type of blue-collar player that often thrives playing for a franchise like Detroit. The Red Wings won championships built around players of his ilk. During his time there, it wasn’t superstars like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg or Nick Lidstrom that showed Helm the ropes. It was guys that played a similar role to the one he succeeded in.

“It’s (Kris) Draper, (Darren) McCarty and (Kirk) Maltby,” Helm said. “Those guys, I played with and helped me along the way which meant a lot to me.”

Helm played with all three of Draper, McCarty and Maltby — the three pieces that made up ‘the grind line’ — when Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 2008. Along the way, they eliminated the Avs in the second round in a quick four-game sweep. That series was the last for three former Avalanche greats in Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic.

The latter is now Colorado’s general manager and signed Helm to his one-year contract in July.

“We have talked about it a couple of times,” Helm said when asked if he’s ever teased Sakic about eliminating him from the playoffs 13 years ago. “I wouldn’t chirp him though.”

Helm will always see Detroit as the city that shaped him into the person and player he is today. But the Avalanche have given him one more chance at shining bright in the playoffs. Something he hasn’t had an opportunity to do in more than five years.

He’ll forever be remembered as a Red Wing when it’s all said and done. And as he says, Detroit will always be home.

But perhaps winning with the Avs could make Denver a close second.

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Aarif Deen
 is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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