March 20, 2014

Stephane Veilleux

When Stephane Veilleux scored a goal against the Edmonton Oilers last week, I had to do a double check.

I assumed Veilleux -a stereotypical Minnesota Wild checker - had retired a long time ago. They didn't have another guy by the same name, could they?

It turns out it was in fact every Minnesota fan's favorite checker. He is still around, although no one should be faulted if they had all but assumed he was long gone.

Veilleux has played just 22 NHL games in the past three seasons. After 8 solid NHL season (including 7 in Minnesota), Veilleux has spent the last three years toiling in the minor leagues.

Most long time NHLers would walk away from the game in such a situation. But the deceptive Veilleux kept plugging away, and always kept the dream of returning to the NHL alive.

“You can never give up,” said Veilleux in a recent interview with Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. “There’s times that I can’t deny when I’m down in the AHL, sometimes you wonder if you’re going to get another sniff up here. But I always have the mind-set that being down there, you’re still playing hockey and you’re still doing what you love.

“But I’ve never been satisfied with anything, so that’s what keeps me working as I hard as I did my first couple years in Minnesota. To come up and have a role and be contributing on a winning NHL team right now, I’m really proud of it.”

Coach Mike Yeo is proud of Veilleux, too. “He’s a real competitive guy and brings a lot of passion to the game, and that stuff’s valuable to your team,” Yeo said. “You go on the road and you’ve got a guy like that playing with that type of intensity, that’s quite often contagious to the rest of the group.”

It almost sounds like Yeo could be describing the much respected Veilleux of a few years ago.

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