When Stephane Veilleux
was traded to the Minnesota Wild from the New Jersey Devils in February, he considered it a blessing.
After only skating in one contest with the Devils, Veilleux played Wild’s final 21 games of the season. Before coming to Minnesota, he spent most of the season with New Jersey’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany Devils.
The forward looked at the trade as an opportunity to rejuvenate his NHL career with the Wild, the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2001 Entry Draft and made his NHL debut with during the 2002-03 season.
As exciting as the chance to return to the NHL and the Wild was for Veilleux, he was thrilled to move back to the State of Hockey for a few reasons beyond the rink. First, he and his wife, Amy, have a home in Minnesota and spend their summers here. Second, while Veilleux played in Albany, Amy became pregnant with the couple’s first child.
“To come back to Minnesota was a true blessing and I couldn’t have asked for a more fortunate situation,” said Veilluex about coming home while his wife was pregnant.
The Veilleux’s first son, Rafael, was born in late July. Speaking on the phone as his son cried in the background, the 30-year-old attempted to describe what becoming a new father meant to him.
“People talk about how amazing it is to have a child, but until you live it, I don’t think you know,” Veilluex proclaimed. “It’s like having a little me; it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Another reason the St. Georges de Beauce, Que., native should feel good this offseason: he re-signed with Minnesota for a one-year, two-way deal on June 25. With the additional free agent signings this summer and a stable of prospects on the cusp of turning, the Wild will have more depth at forward than ever, a fact not lost on Veilluex. He is aware that time in Houston – away from his expanding family – with the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Aeros, is a possibility.
“It’s a part of life in hockey, and I’d be disappointed,” Veilluex said. “But there is no room to be grumpy about (being sent down) and I’ll continue to be myself.”
However, he is determined to stick in the Wild lineup and keep his household in Minnesota for the entire season.
“Being a father, playing for my wife and family, can be extra motivation,” Veilluex stated.
The 6-foot-1 and 200-pound winger will have the drive of his family with him at Wild Training Camp, but don’t think for a minute he needs any motivation besides the determination that comes from within. Watch Veilluex play (or workout as he was recently featured on a Webisode of “Becoming Wild: Chapter Two,” presented by Toyota) and he looks like a man skating with something to prove.
“There are no guarantees in life,” Veilluex said. “All the years I was on a one-way (contract) with the Wild, I kept fighting for a spot.”
After skating with the Wild for four full seasons and parts of two more to start his career, Veilluex signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but had trouble adjusting to Tampa.
“I wanted to stay with the Wild,” Veilluex explained. “Mentally, not as an excuse, it hurt me; my heart was with the Wild.”
Veilluex then played the 2010-11 season overseas and split time between the Blues Espoo of the Finnish Elite League and HC Ambri-Piotta in Switzerland. Despite spending a year in Europe and most of last season in the AHL, his goal making it back to the NHL never waivered and has continued into this summer.
“I never had a doubt to keep fighting and get back to the NHL,” Veilluex said. “Going trough what I’ve gone through, playing in the minors and in Europe, it builds your character.”
So, back in the State of Hockey and getting comfortable with the responsibilities of fatherhood, Veilluex looks to settle into the role of an energetic, character player the Wild can rely upon this season.