Joe Veleno’s recall to the Detroit Red Wings was a big deal. However, even though the 2018 first-round draft pick collected goal and assist in a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, it seems as though how Veleno got to Toronto is an even bigger deal.
Joe Veleno hitched a ride from the Motor City to Hogtown as a passenger in the car of Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman.
“I was a little bit shy,” Veleno admitted about ride sharing with his boss, who also happens to be a hockey legend. “I really didn’t know what to talk about. I’m glad he made up most of the conversation.
“Once I got to spend a little time with him in the car I got a little bit more comfortable. He’s a really good person and real easy to talk to. It made the drive fairly easy.
“I’m just fortunate he was able to drive me to the game. It means a lot to drive with Steve Yzerman. I guess I have a story I can tell later on in the future.”
Veleno Keeping Hall of Fame Company
Veleno isn’t the first NHLer to hitch a ride to a NHL game with his boss. In 1928, future Hall of Famer Red Horner of the Maple Leafs was picked up at his home and driven to his NHL debut by Leafs co-owner and GM Conn Smythe.
Horner explained the circumstances to me when I interviewed him years ago for a piece that ran in the Hockey News.
He was working for a finance company and playing hockey in the Toronto Bank League, along with junior for the Toronto Marlboros. Following his regular Saturday afternoon Bank League game, Horner was approached by Smythe. The Leafs were short on the back end and he was there to offer defenseman Horner an NHL contract.
Smythe wanted Horner to play that night. Horner, just 19 at the time, took great delight in this idea. There was only one issue.
“I told him I didn’t have a car,” Horner recalled. Smythe assured his protege not to worry.
“I’ll pick you up and drive you to the game,” Horner remembered Smythe telling him.
So that was how Horner arrived at Mutual Street Arena for his NHL debut, a December 22, 1928 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, launching a Hall of Fame career.
During that interview, Horner, who led the NHL in penalty minutes seven times during his playing days, also allowed that he wasn’t fond of playing against the Red Wings.
“I liked playing the Montreal Canadiens,” Horner explained. “They stuck to hockey.
“Those Detroit Red Wings, though, all they ever wanted to do was fight.”