Oct 23, 2020
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
Vinni Lettieri’s hockey roots run deep.
For starters, one of the newest members of the Anaheim Ducks organization grew up in Excelsior, MN., just 15 miles south of downtown Minneapolis. Hockey is ubiquitous with the state of Minnesota, and Lettieri made his mark. He posted 95 points in two years with Minnetonka High before a brief – and equally successful – stint with Lincoln in the United States Hockey League. Lettieri returned to his home state to skate for the University of Minnesota, where he recorded 83 points in 149 games and won four consecutive BIG Regular Season Championships.
Lettieri also comes from hockey royalty. His grandfather, Lou Nanne, played professionally with the Minnesota North Stars. He made his mark in his post-playing career, using his time as General Manager of Minnesota to make the team a consistent contender. Under his tutelage, Minnesota reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1981 and made the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons.
Nanne also spent time as the general manager of Team USA, famously joining with Walter Bush to name Herb Brooks the coach of the 1980 Olympic team.
“My grandpa was front and center with support throughout hockey in my childhood. My dad was from a different standpoint as he was a soccer goalie, he was in the World Cup and the Olympics. Our whole family with my grandparents and my immediate family and cousins – we’re all very sports-driven and hockey-driven, but he’s given me so much advice throughout my career and has helped me so much. Without my grandpa, my dad and the rest of my family members, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“He’s been around the block, has done a lot of things and had a very successful career in the hockey world. I’m lucky enough to be coached and supported by him throughout my life.”
Lettieri’s sports background also includes his father, Tino, a professional soccer goalie who played on some of the largest stages for Canada during his career, including two Summer Olympics (1976, 1984) and the 1996 World Cup. The newest Duck spent plenty of time on the pitch, balancing hockey and soccer. Eventually, hockey won out.
“I love the game of soccer and I respect the game of soccer,” Lettieri said. “It was fun while I played it, but my passion and my love, especially being from Minnesota, was in hockey the whole time.”
It’s this background that’s helped establish Lettieri as one of the best scorers in the American Hockey League (AHL). He’s one of eight players in the last 10 years (2010-20) to score 20-plus goals his first three seasons to begin an AHL career.
Lettieri is one of three players to lead an AHL club in goals each of the last three seasons (Greg Carey, Lehigh Valley and Reid Boucher, Utica).
“I’m more of a gritty player,” he said while explaining his playing style. “I have a knack for the net and try to score as many goals as I can. I know I shoot the puck a lot. I would say that one of my best assets is my speed, but I have tons to improve on day in and day out as we all do. For people that don’t know me, I think my speed and my shot are two key things that drive me as a player.”
Entering the free agent market for the first time, Anaheim immediately showed interest in the dynamic scorer. Largely spending his professional career on the East Coast, Lettieri didn’t know much about the West Coast – or the intense rivalries at the NHL and AHL levels.
His first taste of it came at the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic, where Gulls fans packed Toyota Arena in Ontario and made their presence known.
“I think that was amazing and I was a little jealous of the guys from San Diego that they had (those fans) behind them,” he said. “It was very amazing and I think hockey is growing all over and in a place like San Diego too, it’s really cool to see that.”
Lettieri is ready to ditch the parkas and snow boots for sandals and warm weather. He’s skating with Adam Oates as part of the Oates Sports Group training program in Jupiter, FL, waiting for hockey to announce training camp dates.
He’s embracing an offseason of change, and excited for the opportunity to show his skill on a different stage.
“Definitely a little different, but at the end of the day, you’re playing hockey,” Lettieri explained while discussing moving to the West Coast. “Whether it’s warm or cold outside, you have to adjust to your surroundings and it’s definitely going to be a little bit different. I think it’s going to be different in a good way for me personally. Like I said, there’s a lot of upside in this organization and I couldn’t be happier.”
Joe Spurrier contributed to this story.