A rugby player from Saskatchewan meets a teacher from Wales in the Bahamas.
What sounds like the elaborate setup to a joke is actually the beginning of Spokane Chiefs left wing Adam Helewka’s life story.
Helewka’s mother, Alison, moved from Wales to the Bahamas to start her teaching career around age 20. While there, she met Dave Helewka of Prince Albert, whose rugby team was touring the West Indies country.
The two eventually married and settled in Burnaby, British Columbia, where their sons Jordan, 20, and Adam, 18, grew up.
Adam, the Chiefs Rookie of the Year during the 2012-13 season, comes by his hockey pedigree naturally.
Father Dave, the chief financial officer for RLG International, played hockey before he took up rugby.
“Dad was a really good hockey player, but he didn’t think he was good enough to pursue hockey, so he went to the University of Alberta for a business degree,” Helewka said.
Older brother Jordan, who attends British Columbia Institute of Technology, also had talents on ice.
“He’s a big guy, a defenseman,” Helewka said. “He was a pretty good player, but he didn’t take the game seriously enough.”
Adam put more of an effort into the game, but his hockey career took an unexpected turn when he was cut from his tier-one team during his second year of bantams. Helewka also didn’t make his hometown midget team, the Vancouver Northwest Giants, so he enrolled at Notre Dame, a boarding school in Saskatchewan, and played Double-A midget hockey.
“Notre Dame was a great experience for me because you’re on the ice every day,” Helewka said. “They really focus on school there and your work ethic.”
The experience paid off when Helewka returned home, made the Giants’ roster and led the team in scoring. He was soon listed by the Chiefs and stuck with the Western Hockey League team during camp last season.
Helewka had 10 goals and 17 assists in 60 games last season, capping his season with the team’s rookie award.
“It was a good reward to get, but at the same time, it wasn’t just myself,” Helewka said. “My teammates helped me with that.”
The Chiefs have lost a big chunk of offensive punch from last season, so Helewka is a key player who must fill the void.
“We expect bigger and better things out of him,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “Whether he’s ready to assume that at his age, I don’t know. We’re going to find that out.
“I think the most skilled guy on our team, it’s pretty clear, it’s Mitch (Holmberg). Mike (Aviani) would be up there, but after that I think Adam has as much skill on our team as any kid. It’s applying the potential and doing it every night that he has to (do). Looking at a 72-game schedule, we saw spurts of it last year, but we didn’t see consistency. To be an elite player in this league, you have to be consistent every night.”
Helewka, who graduated from Ferris High last year, said he spent the summer getting stronger and adding weight, knowing he needs to start outmuscling opponents to improve his offensive opportunities.
“I think I just have to do the little things right,” he said. “I have to do everything faster and quicker if I want to be one of the key players on this team.”