If Laval Rocket forward Yannick Veilleux has to play for his future, at least he has the benefit of playing close to home.
“Just the fact of going back after practice or after a game and being able to see my son or, you know, my brother, sister, mother, or father,” the St. Hippolytte native said after Rocket practice on Tuesday. “It’s just been awesome to be able to share that with my girlfriend and my son. I’m just going one day at a time and I’m trying to make the most of every day and I just want to have fun with it.”
Veilleux joined Laval in late December after signing a professional tryout contract. Previously, he spent time with the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL where he had six goals and 19 points in 22 games.
For the foreseeable future, Veilleux needn’t lay his head in a town known as the Celery City, and can instead make a 15-minute drive to and from his Boisbriand condo where he lives with his girlfriend, Lori, and his one-year-old son, Logan.
“A couple days ago, I just went to the outdoor [rink] where I grew up,” Veilleux said. “It’s just to take my mind off hockey. I’m just trying to be there for both of them. Since September, they were here and I was in Kalamazoo. Being apart for three months wasn’t easy. Having a chance to come here is the perfect scenario for me.”
He’s had four goals and two assists in six games in his second stint with the Rocket. He last played with them in their inaugural season in 2017-18, where he had seven points in 52 games.
“I don’t think he tries to be something that he’s not,” teammate Phil Varone said. “He’s not the most flashy player but ... I think his best opportunity the other night, he puts it in the back of the net. I wouldn’t even call it a Grade A opportunity.”
Yannick Veilleux s'inspire de Charles Hudon et marque du cercle droit!— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) January 5, 2020
Yannick Veilleux shows off his best Charles Hudon impression and scores from the right circle!#SYRvsLAV #WitnessTheFuture #IciLAVenir #GoRocket pic.twitter.com/wHX1ah9hj5
Since joining the professional ranks in 2013, Veilleux has bounced around many a city as a pro player. He’s spent time in Chicago, Peoria, Rochester, and even St. John’s, Newfoundland prior to the team moving to Laval. He’s had stops in the ECHL including Brampton along with Kalamazoo.
Veilleux says he had offers from other teams near the beginning of the season, but they came at a time when he was starting to fall out of love with the game.
“I think he was a little down about hockey and the realities of life as a professional,” Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard said. “It’s not always easy. People think the professional life is really beautiful and you’re living the life of a rock star or a superstar.”
But his play, and his statistics — Veilleux knows prospective teams may focus a bit on those — in Kalamazoo this season have helped his confidence. As a result, the forward was in a much better space to consider a late-December phone call from head coach Bouchard, whom he had spurned during the Rocket’s previous training camp.
“I was very frank, I was very honest with him,” Bouchard continued. “I told him how I worked. It’s a guy I’ve known for a long time. We thought he’d be important for our team that’s battling for a playoff spot. We were really going through some challenges. I told him I’d give him an opportunity. I’m a guy who’s fair, but without making any promises. I told him if he wanted to come to give me a call.”
“We had a quick chat, and I told him that I needed time to think about it,” Veilleux explained. “Maybe three, four hours later I called him back and then we had a really good conversation. And things just went from there.”
While Veilleux is seeing success with the Rocket, it’s more than likely the 26-year-old will consider taking his talents to Europe for his next contract. In that move he sees more financial stability as well a chance to play in a league that’ll be easier on his body.
But it’s not stopping him from enjoying the comfortable surroundings he enjoys right now, which allow him to take advantage of playing at home.
“I’m coming here [with] no pressure,” Veilleux said. “I‘ve been just wanting to play hockey.”