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Tuesday afternoon, new Admirals Head Coach Eric Veilleux joined Jason Gregor on TSN 1260 in Edmonton. Audio for this segment can be found here. Go to about the 40 minute mark.
Jason Gregor (JG): Eric, welcome to the show, how are ya?
Eric Veilleux (EV): I’m doing fine, how are you guys?
JG: I’m doing very well. You played in the AHL for quite some time, and the International Hockey League, and you’ve coached at least the Major Junior level and up since 2005-2006. This will be your first chance to be a pro head coach. Is there going to be any major differences at the ECHL compared to the Quebec Major Junior for you, as a head coach?
EV: You know what, I was lucky enough last year, being the assistant coach. Got a chance to know pro hockey. Honestly, I was coaching junior wondering if things had changed that much, and you know what, after last year, the hockey is still the same. There’s obviously many players coming up from the juniors to the East Coast, same as in the American Hockey League, so, you know it’s going to be very similar to what coaches can see in junior hockey. Yes, there’s gonna be some older guys, some older veterans, and the end of the day, they want to move up, they want to play in the American Hockey League. They want to get a better contract, so you know what, it comes down to them getting better and us progressing as coaches. Our job stays the same. Our job is to get them to be a better person, better players, and really looking forward to this.
JG: In Norfolk, of course, that was with the Anaheim Ducks organization-you had guys like Emerson Etem and many others there last season. What’s the connection with you and Peter Chiarelli, or did you deal mainly with Bill Scott (Oilers Assistant General Manager) getting this job?
EV: It was mostly Bill. I’m not sure exactly how it came about, but after knowing in San Diego they were gonna stay-from what I know anyway-at two coaches, made a few phone calls, got in touch with Bill, and had a few good conversations with him. Obviously, I knew JF (Houle, current Bakersfield assistant) who coached the team before, who I work closely with, tightly, after knowing I was going to be the coach. They did a lot of recruiting already, they did sign some players, and I’m going to be on the phone with him quite a bit, too be honest (laughs). Yeah, that’s how it happened.
JG: Eric, you know, at the East Coast hockey league, you have a lot of young guys who- likely in Edmonton, especially on the backend, they’ve got a lot of young prospects, they just don’t have enough room for them in the American League. So your blueline, at least on paper, should be the strength of your team. Players who are obviously really hungry to learn and want to move up. When you talk to Bill Scott, do they want you to play the same style of play at the American League and at the NHL, or do you get to coach how you have to the team that you have?
EV: All we talked about is what my philosophy is about, and we didn’t get into big details as what we needed to be doing. I know for a fact we’re going to work individually with players. I’m sure every player need to work on different things. individually to get better, on the technical side. As far as systems go, maybe I’ll get to know more, but I think it comes down to philosophy: are you an offensive coach, are you a defensive coach? These guys, they like to track, they like to apply good pressure, that’s the way I think as well. I’m not sure what’s going to happen that way.
JG: Would you say you’re more of an attacking, offensive coach than a defensive coach?
EV: You know what? I’m an offensive coach when I have the puck (both laugh). When you don’t have it, I’m more of a defensive coach, I like it when we get it quick. Put it anyway you want–I like when we have the puck.
JG: Will you then play a pressure defense and forecheck?
EV: When you don’t have it, you want to retrieve it, as quick as possible. You know you need to have everybody involved in the play. Nowadays, I think defensemen have a big part in the offense, a little bit more than what we used to see before. I strongly believe this is the way hockey needs to be played. Obviously, there’s certain times when you can do things, but as far as having the guys dumping and chasing the puck–I don’t think that’s the way it should be. When you have it, there’s one way you need to play, when you don’t, you need to get it quick. That’s the way I see it: you need to check, you need to forecheck.
JG: Interesting how you mention that, Eric. I agree with you. At times-and I understand every now and then you’ve got to chip and chase-players just give it up. And the odds are, when you dump the puck in, it’s not great that you’re going to get it back, all the time. Unless you know, you’re making a smart, really well-timed chip-and-chase, for instance. Is that something you find, when you get players, that some of them still struggle with that? That some of them just want to push the puck in rather than hold on to it because there’s a chance they might make a mistake when they have the puck on their stick?
EV: Depends who they are. Obviously, on a hockey team there’s highly skilled players, there’s some that don’t have a big set of skills, but it comes down to our job: to get those guys better and play with better confidence to make plays. We’ll see what we have, obviously. I’m more to say I’m in the dark, I don’t know all those guys we’re going to be having here in Norfolk. I do have JF’s opinion, Ben Boudreau, I’ll get to meet him next week. So we’ll sit down and make sure we go through each and every player on our depth chart. Then we’ll go from there.
JG: Eric Veillieux joins us, he’s the head coach of the Oilers’ ECHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. You actually played under Bob Hartley, back in Laval, with the Titan. I know you played with him for a few seasons, including one where you had 125 points, 55 goals in 70 games, very much an offensive player. How was Hartley as a coach back in junior?
EV: I had Bob Hartley for 9 seasons in a row.
EV: I’m serious. When I was 17, my first year playing junior in Hawkesbury, he was my coach. He came in and recruited me and convinced me playing in Hawkesbury was better than playing in Major Junior. (Both laugh). He was great, and I had him two years in Laval. He convinced me, then, to go back to Major Junior. My first year pro (1993-94 Cornwall Aces) Jacques Martin was the head coach, and Bob was the assistant coach.
JG: In Cornwall, right?
EV: Yeah, in Cornwall. They both worked together. Then Bob was my head coach for four years (Cornwall and Hershey) until he left to go to Colorado. In Junior, he was tough, I have to say it. Different generation, and in pro hockey. I don’t want to say he got better, because being tough is not a bad thing, to be honest. Tough, it’s more demanding, and he demanded a lot of his players, he made you accountable, made us work together. He was great. I think in my career, I think I was fortunate to play under some very good coaches, like I mentioned. Michel Therrien was Bob’s assistant coach in Laval. Jacques Martin was my very first head coach. Randy Carlyle coached me in Winnipeg. In my last one, it was Bruce Boudreau, who was my last coach in Lowell, in 2001. I know you get to learn a lot of things, different good coaches. You take one from one here, another from another here, and you become yourself as a coach. I’m very happy I was well coached in my career.
JG: You had Roy Sommer in Kentucky, did you not? Long-time AHL–I know he’s coached over 1,000 games. You’ve had a lot of coaches, different experience. Now that you’re a coach, and you’ve been a coach for almost a decade, do you take certain things from each coach or is it this is your personality. Guys who coached you in junior, the game has changed so much, and how players and coaches interact so much, you couldn’t take as much as you could a decade or so ago.
EV: You learn from what those guys have done in certain situations. If I can recall myself crying, and having one of my teammates do such-and-such thing, how did that coach react? Did it work? Did it not? When it happens to you, that’s what you can refer to and what you think you can do to make the right decision. At the end of the day, you’re yourself. Let’s just say if I’m not certain about certain things, I won’t hesitate to give those guys a call and see what those guys think and what they would do and go from there. It’s a great thing to get to know all those guys and be able to give those guys a call. Sometimes to reassure you. Sometimes you may think something one way, and you give those guys a call, and they think the same. “Good, that’s the right thing to do.”
JG: Well, Eric, congratulations on your first head coaching job in pro hockey. Being an assistant last year in the AHL, and of course spending almost a decade as a coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Best of luck with some of the Oilers’ young prospects.
EV: Thank you very much, it’s an honor to be part of the Edmonton Oilers organization. Strong organization, their ability, they’re turning around right now, and here in Norfolk, we want to be part of that turn around as well. Really looking forward to it.