On June 28 of this year, Mike Vellucci resigned as the head coach of the Charlotte Checkers and later that same day joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as their head coach to replace Clark Donatelli, who had handed in his resignation that morning.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for me because this franchise has had seven of their 10 coaches go to the NHL, which is a great record,” Vellucci said. “Jim Rutherford (Pittsburgh General Manager) is a winner and the organization is first class so when they called with the offer I was very happy to accept. He hired me for my first job 27 years ago and it has been great ever since.”
Vellucci went into more detail about how he got into coaching when he retired from playing at the age of 26, when his wife had a decent job and they didn’t want to be moving around.
“I got a call from Jim who asked me if I wanted to coach a Tier 2 team so I took that offer and won a championship my first year and was hooked from that point on,” said Vellucci. ” Since then I’ve been very fortunate to win at every level including the OHL and now a Calder Cup with Charlotte last season.”
“Last year was just magical because we led all the way from the beginning because we had good people to work with,” continued Vellucci. “The series with Hershey was a tough one and although we swept them it really could have gone either way, because they had goalies who played very well, but we got a couple of bounces that made the difference.”
Over the years, not only has he been the head or assistant coach but he also had some front office titles attached to his name.
“It is fun to be involved in everything and it is really easier when you’re the coach and GM because then the players can’t go and complain to the GM about the coach, or the other way around,” Vellucci said with a laugh.
“I was very fortunate to win a couple of awards, like coach and executive of the year, so it has been a good run, but I’m still a young guy who wants to continue getting better and grow,” Vellucci added.
When questioned whether that meant becoming a head coach in the NHL, Mike quickly replied, “That would be a goal but my task right now is to get better here and help develop the guys here. So sure, if I’d be fortunate enough to get there that would be an honor.”
Most of Vellucci’s playing time was in the IHL and ECHL but he did recall playing 40 games for Binghamton in the late 80s.
“It was in that old Hershey barn where the fans were on top of you and called you names and threw things at you so that made it fun to play there except for the Sunday games that were really rough,” said Vellucci.