BY CHRIS LOMON
What did two hockey wives, namely, Kary Carkner and Pam Helmer, do, when they had a story to tell? They wrote a children’s book. That’s what.
They’ve been through it all, highs and lows, both as hockey spouses and as sisters.
A few years ago, Kary, wife of former NHLer and current AHL defenceman, Matt Carkner, and Pam, wife of former NHLer and current AHL assistant coach, Bryan Helmer, came up with an idea to put their own stamp on the game.
In 2014, they self-published Hero's Ho Ho Ho Hockey Dream, a kid’s book that has seen the siblings visit several northeast U.S. grade schools, take part in autograph signings, and do TV and radio interviews.
“I'm most proud of my sister, partner and best friend,” said Kary. “She really is the one who started the whole thing. She scripted a rough draft of the story and then after an endless number of phone conversations, we made her idea become a reality.”
The original idea was for the book to help children cope with the death of a close one (the sisters’ father, Wayne, died of a heart attack seven years ago) but evolved into something completely different, specifically, a story of a sports-loving kid who falls asleep and wakes up in the North Pole.
When the book came out, the sisters had no idea how it would be received.
They got their answer pretty quickly.
“We are thrilled with the amount of books that were sold and the feedback we have received,” said Kary. “It’s fun seeing emails and social media posts of kids holding our 'labour of love' and writing to tell us how much they loved the book. A real highlight was when a teacher would share a photo of their whole class reading the book and sharing the kids' artwork of Hero.
“We even had a family give us their 5-year-old daughter's version of her Hero book, with story and illustrations included,” she continued. “It’s touching to know we are impacting children's lives through reading. We are getting lots of positive comments from adults, too.”
Said, Pam, “The response to the book has been better than we hoped for. To be honest, Kary and I didn't have a clue what we were getting ourselves into. That's the beauty of it though. We started with a tiny idea, had a dream for it, and have worked really hard to get this far.”
Why does she think the book (attention Senators fans: it featured a character named Daniel Elfredsson) has struck such a chord with the hockey community?
“I think it resonates with so many people because it's about family,” said Pam. “I'm pretty sure most families have their good days, but I'm pretty sure they have their not so good days, too. Our Hero books are trying to teach kids the idea of gratefulness and to not take things for granted, especially your family. We've experienced this first hand with the loss of our father. Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone. There's not a day that goes by that we don't think of our dad and miss him and wish he were still here. Hopefully, Hero the Hero is helping families to embrace each other and cherish what you have.”
If you read carefully, you’ll notice she used the word, ‘books.’ The next one is due out this fall.
“I’m so incredibly proud of Kary, and my sister-in-law Pam for making such an amazing book,” said Matt, who recently signed a two-year contract with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Islanders, after skating in 236 NHL regular season games, with San Jose, Ottawa and the New York Islanders, “They are so creative and are doing this to send a message about family values and all the great things that normal people can do in everyday life. It’s pretty awesome to see all the smiles they are putting on kids' faces.”
As for the ideal storybook ending for the Carkners and Helmers…
Matt’s Bridgeport squad and Bryan’s Hershey side meet up in the AHL Eastern Conference championship, and the second Hero the Hero book outsells the original.
Now that would be something worth reading about.
An award-nominated writer, Chris Lomon contributes feature stories to a number of magazines and websites, including Yahoo! Sports (Canada) and NHLPA.com. He has written numerous articles for horse racing publications over the years and has been nominated for a Sovereign Award (feature writing category) on three occasions. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisLomon.
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